Because I am the type of person and, particularly, the type of parent with a tendency to fret, I often fixate on a string of related thoughts as I watch my elder kiddo struggle through his remote learning classes.
What is this going to do to him? What impact will this bizarre academic year have on my child? And what about his classmates, or the millions of children around the country starting their school years behind computers and tablets — or who aren’t logged on at all?
Of course, no one really knows, because this academic year is truly unprecedented. Yet education and mental health experts are beginning to reckon with the long-term fallout of this school year that wasn’t. HuffPost Parents spoke to several who offered some predictions about what this “lost year” could portend for America’s children.
There will be significant learning loss.
Experts agree that most kids will have fallen behind where they otherwise would have been, had schools not abruptly shuttered in March. The question now is: by how much?
One recent estimate suggests that children who are learning remotely and who receive pretty typical instruction will lose up to four months of learning by the time they resume in-person classes in January 2021 — if that, in fact, happens. And children who are getting lower-quality remote instruction could lose up to 11 months of learning. Children who aren’t engaged in remote education at all could lose up to 14 months of learning.
“In many cases, children will be more than a year behind,” warned Brian Perkins, an associate professor of practice in education leadership and director of the Summer Principals Academy at Columbia University’s Teachers College. “Others will be a few months. But I think we will see, universally, loss.”
He stressed that this is not a criticism of children, parents or teachers who are doing their best to work through an impossible situation. “It’s more of a ‘let’s face the reality,’” Perkins said.
Inequality will be a bigger problem than ever before.
Experts who work in health and education tend to believe that most of the equity problems facing children, families and educators during the COVID-19 pandemic have always been there. Now, they are magnified.
“The gaps that have always existed are just going to be wider,” said Nermeen Dashoush, an early childhood education professor at Boston University and chief curriculum officer at MarcoPolo Learning.
Students in the highest-poverty districts in the country are much more likely to have begun this academic year remotely, but children in lower-income households are much more likely to lack the tools they need, like reliable high-speed internet. Experts are predicting a surge in high school dropouts.
Meanwhile, children whose parents can afford it may have opted to send them to private schools, to create learning pods or to supplement whatever school their children are getting with tutors and extracurriculars.
“We are going to see a wider gap between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots,’” Perkins said.
We’ll have an urgent need to figure out where exactly kids are.
All of the experts who spoke to HuffPost Parents for this story emphasized how critical it will be to have ways of assessing how much individual children have been affected by the pandemic in order to even think about getting them the help and support they need.