HARRISBURG, Pa. — The COVID-19 pandemic’s negative impact on education will linger for years, according to some experts. Educators say combatting pandemic learning loss will be the primary objective of the coming school year.
The pandemic forced schools to close early in the spring of 2020. Even when some schools reopened that fall, they continued to deal with rolling school closures, student and staff quarantines, severe staffing shortages, and lost instructional time.
Those factors have affected students socially, emotionally, and academically, and the deficits are starting to show.
Nationally, standardized test scores dropped significantly from 2019 to 2021, according to a Brookings Institution study, with an even larger drop at high-poverty schools.
In Pennsylvania, test scores in English fell between 3.5 and 7%, depending on grade level. Math scores dropped between 7% and 11%, though the Pennsylvania Department of Education pointed out in its data that fewer students took the PSSA in 2019, so comparison may be less accurate.
“The isolation issues of the pandemic really did cause several social and emotional problems and that affects learning,” Mark DiRocco, executive director of the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators (PASA) said. “That is going to take time and it’s going to take resources to help the children get back to the developmental stage they should be in.”
Schools are in a better place than this time last year. They are not as bogged down with major health decisions, like whether to require masks and when to temporarily shut down in the face of outbreaks. Rather, they will be able to take stock of the learning lost in the last two school years and begin the process of catching up.