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COVID-19, kids and crisis: The pandemic and learning loss

Rosemarie Zamarripa
Posted at 3:00 PM, Mar 28, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-28 19:19:20-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — When Rosemarie Zamarripa started kindergarten at Silver City Elementary School in Kansas City, Kansas, last year, her first introduction to school was virtual.

"She’s reading more you know, she’s picking up more stuff as she goes you know, as the weeks and the months go on," Susan Zamarippa, her mother said.

Susan has spent her time between working and trying to coach her daughter through online schooling at home.

"And it was kind of tough for her, because she was like, 'I don’t want to do it, mom,' you know? And it was kind of different for her," Susan said.

Then, when Rosemarie was finally able to attend school for in-person learning, Susan began to worry her daughter had already fallen behind.

"It was a little bit of her math, and a little bit of her reading," Susan Zamarippa said.

Those observations are in line with what multiple studies show regarding learning loss in the pandemic.

A study by the consulting firm McKinsey and Company found on average, K-12 students were five months behind in math and four months behind in reading.

This hit "historically disadvantaged students hardest," according to the study.

Schools with predominantly Black students were six months behind and students in low-income schools are seven months behind.

The study went on to theorize this could lead to long-term impacts, including the "chances of attending college and ultimately finding a fulfilling job."

McKinsey and Company claims without intervention, this learning loss could cause students to earn between $49,000 to $61,000 less over their lifetime.

And that's not the only study spelling out trouble for students.

An article by Politico examined results for standardized tests called "iReady tests."

While test scores overall showed more students were struggling, it broke it down by age groups.

It found "second and third graders who were still learning to read," and "teens who couldn't grasp the shift from procedural to conceptual math," were most impacted.

And, it's not just test scores.

These results back up what teachers say they're seeing.

A CNBC article points to a Horace Mann Educators Corporation study.

That study polled close to 950 educators throughout the U.S.

Out of those polled, 53% reported seeing significant loss of learning among students. 44% reported seeing some loss of learning. And, only 3% said they didn't see any learning loss.

But, what are educators here in the Kansas City area seeing and hearing from parents?

"Sure, we’ve had parents concerned that maybe they are seeing their students struggling with something at home, or maybe they feel like they’ve missed out on standards," Darcy Swan, the director of curriculum for the Kansas City, Kansas, Public Schools district, said.

She adds because of these concerns, schools do have extra assistance in place.

"In terms of Covid, we definitely have made plans for a robust summer school that we have lined up this summer," Swan said. "We also have engaged tutoring by outside tutoring companies during the school day, to make sure that we don’t have anything holding us back from working with all the students that we can."

Swan says if you're concerned about your child, reach out to their teacher to see if there's more that can be done both in and out of school.

She adds many schools have changed their approach to really targeting each child's individualized needs, recognizing that not all children learn the same.

"As classroom teachers we are always helping our students learn what’s the right strategy for you, what’s the right mode of learning for you," Swan said.

For Rosemarie, these days her mom is pleased with her progress and credits that targeted approach and the help of Silver City teachers with getting her six-year-old back on track.

We want to hear from you on what resources Kansas City families might benefit from to help us all through the pandemic. If you have five minutes, feel free to fill out this survey to help guide our coverage: KSHB COVID Survey.