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Learning Curve Community Tour: Lost Learning During The Pandemic

It's the second in our series of interactive conversations, called the Learning Curve Community Tour. We share some of the reporting that ideastream, WKSU public radio and other public media stations across the state have been doing around the past, present and future of K through 12 public education in Ohio. The series, known as Learning Curve, looks at important education topics such as how our schools are funded, where opportunity gaps exist, and how the pandemic has affected learning. Earlier this month, we spent an hour sharing the wide breadth of stories that reporters have spent the last five months covering for this series. 

In this conversation, we’ll hone in on one major area of concern that came out of the pandemic -- learning loss. Did our children fall behind with interrupted schedules, extended time off and then the switch to distance learning and hybrid options?

According to a February report from the Ohio Department of Education, black students fared far worse during the pandemic than other students when it came to lost learning. An Ohio State University assessment of the data estimated that black students have been set back as much as half a year’s worth of learning. 

Ohio students overall have lost a third of learning on average. The analysis also found that districts or charter schools where classes moved exclusively to online classes saw a half a year’s decline in learning. That means students learned half as much as they would have had the pandemic not disrupted the way we teach kids.

There were also test score declines in counties that saw COVID-related unemployment that created shocks for students like hunger, evictions and loss of WiFi. Chronic absenteeism, or missing 10 percent or more of a school year, has risen across all grades, but jumped almost double for black students in some high poverty districts. 

During this conversation, we reflect on what that loss means beyond the numbers. We’ll talk to reporters, one from ideastream and one from WKSU, and educators from across Northeast Ohio. How deep is the problem and how do we make up for the lost learning? Some educators push back against the term learning loss. They say it’s too negative and argue that it was a great achievement just to attend classes during the pandemic.

-Jenny Hamel, Education Reporter, ideastream

-Donald Jolly, Superintendent, Warrensville Heights City School District

-Lisa Damour, PhD, Psychologist, Author, New York Times Columnist and CBS News contributor

- Garth Holman, Social Studies Teacher, Beachwood Schools and Educational Technology Expert

- Theresa Essandoh, Dean of Students, Findley Elementary

- Holly Christensen, Parent, Educator & Public School and Special Education Advocate

-Max Thomas, Parent & Special Education Advocate

Rachel is the supervising producer for Ideastream Public Media’s morning public affairs show, the “Sound of Ideas.”