Dealing with “losses of learning” during the coronavirus pandemic

Former Gov. Jeb Bush
Former Gov. Jeb Bush (to the right) in the state House chamber. Screenshot, Florida Channel.

With thousands of students likely to fall behind in their studies during the coronavirus pandemic, former Gov. Jeb Bush Tuesday discussed ways to get kids caught up.

“There needs to be a focus on using some of the money coming from the federal government to deal with the losses of learning that have taken place,” Bush said during a livestream discussion with the media outlet Axios. “That could be through summer school, or it could be through a more targeted accelerated approach when school starts in the fall.”

Along with other education advocates and participants, Bush also urged the United States to form a national strategy to “make sure that every child has access to learning during these times.”

“What’s become pretty clear with the COVID-19 pandemic is that the access to education when you can’t get to the classroom is limited, or non-existent for some, and works for others,” said Bush, who is the founder of the nonprofit Foundation for Excellence in Education.

Since mid-March, K-12 students have been doing remote learning at home during the pandemic, but that has been a challenge. The Florida Phoenix has found that not all kids even have laptops, and some students aren’t even going online.

Some parents are struggling to help their students with difficult assignments, and educators are still tackling remote-learning technology. Many families are tired, with moms and dads working jobs as well as playing the role of teacher, when they feel they are not qualified.

What’s worse, children may not be learning what they need to know to advance to the next grade level. And according to a new study, kids may return in the fall with less than 50 percent of typical learning gains, which will likely lead to major impacts on student achievement.

How children will fare when they get to the 2020-21 academic year is uncertain and how will education even look like when kids return to brick-and-mortar schools.

“We don’t want to go back to ‘normal’ when it comes to education, because there were lots of children left behind in that education system,” said Elisa Villanueva Beard, CEO of the non-profit organization Teach for America. “This is a moment where we can imagine something different for kids.”

Teach for America is a network of professionals and college graduates who teach in regions across the country. College graduates can have degrees in any major — they don’t have to be in a College of Education program.

Preexisting issues like the “digital divide” are exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Education systems are finding that these disparities cannot be ignored during distance learning.

Villanueva Beard addressed several concerns about learning loss over the course of the pandemic, stating that diagnostics and assessments will be crucial to determine where students stand currently compared to typical academic trends.

“Kids are falling far behind with the economic downturn. We are at risk of leaving an entire generation behind,” Villanueva Beard said.

“We need significant investments and funds in order to meet the needs of the moment,” she said.

Meanwhile, the Florida Education Association has called on the Department of Education to create diverse committees to help reopen Florida’s schools this fall.