When the COVID-19 pandemic shut down schools and sent children home to learn virtually, students and teachers had to learn differently. However, virtual and hybrid instruction models might not have supported some students’ learning styles.
Now, they are playing catch-up.
“There is definitely a deficit in students’ education because of the pandemic,” says Kim Walter, executive director and owner of Huntington Learning Centers in Mentor and Mayfield. “A lot of skills learned during the pandemic were not retained. Just like sports and music, practice drives success. If, for various reasons, math facts and spelling words weren’t practiced at home during the pandemic, student retention is lower.”
“We are seeing a significant increase in parents seeking supplemental educational experience,” she adds. “Even strong students were negatively impacted. If a student struggled before, the issues have been magnified. In early elementary, children are struggling with phonics and reading. Middle school students are struggling more with math. It’s going to be a long-lasting situation. I don’t see this as being easily corrected without supplemental intervention.”
Talking with your school might help identify ways to help either at home or in the classroom.
“If parents ever have concerns or believe their child is struggling, we encourage them to speak with the teacher, counselor or principal as soon as possible,” says Tammy Strom, communications director at Solon City Schools.
“The school team knows the student and is best able to provide additional strategies and create a plan to address difficulties the student may be experiencing,” she adds. “We actively monitor students’ progress to be sure they are on track and actually gaining the content knowledge and skills, so any gaps can be closed by the end of the year.”
Meagan Fowler, director of student support services at Gilmour Academy, says the approach to tutoring depends on the student and the type of support that they need.
“Our teachers are readily available to students after school or during office hours throughout the school day, which provides our kids with the extra practice and guidance that they may have needed from a tutor,” she says.
“Some of our students who struggle with more foundational skills need more tutoring support outside of the classroom, so that they can access the curriculum a bit better,” Fowler notes.
Walter suggests intervention when the need is recognized.
“If a student is struggling, don’t wait until summer,” she says. “However, summer is a great time to remediate their skills, because they have more time in their schedules and less pressure from school. They’re fresh, and they can meet with someone who can meet their learning needs at their own pace.”
Corinne Gist, Ph.D., owner of Fit Learning Cleveland in Pepper Pike, says, “We have seen an increase in requests for services since the pandemic started. However, many students needed our services prior to the pandemic, due to the focus on content over competency in our education system. Students do not receive enough time to practice and master skills in the classroom, creating a cumulative dysfluency in skills as they progress through school. The effect Covid had on learning has definitely made this worse.”
Pandemic lifestyles not only impacted students’ education, but also their health.
“I think COVID has affected our children in a variety of ways,” Fowler says. “When I look at our students as whole individuals, I worry more about their mental health and ability to utilize coping strategies when things get hard rather than their understanding of the academics themselves, though they are obviously intertwined.”