In order to improve early grade literacy during the pandemic, Learn4Life explored the root causes (or factors) that present unique challenges to our students during this time. The common theme was many supports, beyond just those in the classroom, are necessary to have in place for students to learn. Specifically, L4L’s most recent factor analysis found that the pandemic has had a profound impact on adult literacy, attendance, children’s mental health, early childhood education, food insecurity, school and classroom climate, student engagement, summer learning loss, and teacher preparation.
A brief overview of what we know thus far:
Teacher Preparation– The decision to close schools thrust teachers into online teaching platforms, with little to no preparation. And while large scores of parents have had to turn into teachers overnight many are not equipped to provide the educational experiences that benefit early learners.
Classroom climate – There are early reports of students experiencing isolation from their social networks and of teachers struggling to forge relationships with students they have never met.
Summer learning loss – The COVID slide is expected to yield a 30% learning loss compared to a normal school year. And while schools are working to address learning loss, mitigating COVID’s impact on achievement may prove daunting as teachers report how challenging it has been to keep students, especially early learners, on task during remote learning. Learn more about learning loss in metro Atlanta in a study commissioned by L4L and redefinED atlanta here.
Food insecurity – School closures have exacerbated existing inequalities as studies continue to report that students who depend on school meal programs continue to grapple with access to nutrition and students, especially students of color and low income students, continue to struggle with access to technology.
Mental health – School closures have also made it difficult for students and families to access the mental health resources they usually have through schools. Early reports suggest that school personnel are struggling with identifying and reporting signs of abuse and neglect, an issue that is further complicated as students are not forthcoming about the problems they are experiencing because of privacy issues at home.
The L4L early literacy change action network has begun to prioritize these factors to identify strategies and interventions that are “bright spots” that can be scaled to help our students catch up on lost learning time. Learn more about the challenges faced by Metro Atlanta students here in the full COVID Factor Analysis.