Is It Really Learning Loss?

You can’t log in to the internet right now without some expert shouting about “learning loss” for K-12 students. Allegedly, every kid in America is “falling behind” and we need to get them into school pronto or they will never learn anything on time ever again. The schools are “failing our kids.”

Only no one mentions that “on time” is a social construct that is entirely malleable if only we had the will to make changes. All the arguments about opening schools could be settled if we, as a nation, agreed to revise our arbitrary annual learning goals.

Kids don’t have to learn things on a particular schedule. We made up the standards. It wasn’t handed down on stone tablets from on high, never to be revisited or revised. We could alter the whole educational timeline to accommodate the pandemic. We just….haven’t.

Seriously. The entire concern about kids losing a year of classes could be mitigated by collectively agreeing to teach them the stuff they should have learned this year, next year.

Their brains aren’t going anywhere. The information isn’t going anywhere. It can happen later.

But rather than planning for make-up classes when the pandemic ends, we told kids to suck it up and get to work. We took away all their learning tools and said “Learn the same amount of stuff anyway.” It’s unrealistic and unfair to them.

Now, I acknowledge that learning loss for certain groups is a real and present concern. Initial acquisition of literacy and numeracy are far easier at young ages. Kids who are trying to learn English as a second language need specific supports, as do students with special needs.

I believe those students should have had a special focus this year. They will truly lose the opportunity to learn if their needs aren’t addressed.

But the high school kids who are tying to cram in as many AP courses as possible before graduation could weather a delay. Those kids could have done some independent study projects with their teachers acting as advisors. Or they could have gone back and revisited material form prior years to deeper their understanding. We didn’t have to try and keep cramming a standard curriculum down their throats.

They can learn calculus next year. European history will still be available after the pandemic. Hell, we could offer them all an additional year of high school or a free year of community college to make up for the lost time. But no. We’re making everyone mask up and try to pretend education can proceed as normal.

It sucks and we suck for doing that to our kids.

The real problem in schools this year isn’t students or teachers. It’s the other adults (parents, politicians) who are demanding typical results in decidedly atypical circumstances.

In other words, it’s our fault and we’re the ones failing our kids with our unrealistic expectations.

One thought on “Is It Really Learning Loss?

  1. If all the people shouting the loudest cared about learning loss, they would have been shouting equally loud for decades about making sure we have small class sizes.

    The same as actual teachers (like me) have been doing for decades.

    What has them upset is the loss of schools’ babysitting function. But that’s not allowed to be mentioned.


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