Learning loss compounds through time

Experts are starting to consider the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic will have on children as they grow into adulthood. While some may become stronger and more resilient, many face the risk of struggles throughout their lives. The imprint of the pandemic on this generation has been compared to the impact on the children of the Great Depression. The issue will vary by country and class, with many school-age children having missed months or even years of class time.

If today's learning gaps are left unaddressed, they worsen over time. This could result in poor academic performance and, perhaps more importantly, leave many children without the requisite skill sets to pursue their passions. Economically, these children are paying the price as we speak and will continue to pay with real dollars in the form of reduced earnings potential. Finally, the mental health impact also adversely affects our kids and could linger well into the future.

Beehive believes every child should have the opportunity to maximize their potential, but it requires an all the above approach. This is why we created a platform to give parents the tools and resources to help their children close these learning gaps and develop into the best versions of themselves.

Magnitude of the learning loss problem

The pandemic's impact on children is primarily due to the lack of social interaction and stimulation during a critical period of brain development. According to one study, IQ scores of 700 children aged newborn to three years old fell from an average of 100 to 80 during the first year and a half of the pandemic. Another study published in the journal Nature Human Behaviour showed that children have experienced learning deficits during the Covid pandemic that amount to about one-third of a school year's worth of knowledge and skills.

These learning losses have also been persistent, with many students not closing these gaps more than two years later. These learning delays and regressions were most severe in developing countries and among students from low-income backgrounds. The analysis used data from 15 countries and provided the most comprehensive account to date of the academic hardships wrought by the pandemic.

In the fall of last year, the U.S. Department of Education released its first set of test-score trends since the pandemic began, revealing the worst drop in math and reading scores in decades for students in fourth grade. Specifically, reading scores dropped to the lowest level in over three decades, and math scores declined for the first time since these tests began in 1971. The scores also showed that lower-performing students were the most affected and could take decades to bounce back. The cumulative impact of the pandemic on today's youth is frequently compared to the lifelong imprint the Great Depression left on many children of that generation.

What would it mean if we didn’t close the learning gaps in K-12 education

Many children who fall behind academically during their primary school years (i.e., K-5) will continue to lag, leaving them at risk for increased struggles across their lifetime.

One of the more consequential features of learning gaps is their tendency, if left unaddressed, to compound over time and become more severe and pronounced. This increases the chances that a student will struggle academically and socially or even lead to dropping out of school altogether.

Economically, learning losses during the pandemic could cost K-12 students an average of $70,000 over their lifetimes, according to a study by a Stanford economist. The study analyzed the sharp decline in eighth-grade math scores on national tests between 2019 and 2022. If the learning losses are not recovered, students will become less educated, lower-skilled, and less productive adults. This can translate into earning 5.6% less throughout their lives than students educated just before the pandemic. The losses could total $28 trillion over the rest of this century. These figures echo a similar study released in October 2022 by researchers from Harvard University and Dartmouth College. They also concluded that learning loss leads to lower high school graduation rates and college enrollment as well as higher rates of teen motherhood, arrests, and incarceration.

Learning gaps can also impact a child's emotional well-being. When kids don't understand the content they are being taught, it often leads to frustration, lower self-confidence, and even forms of bullying (e.g., teasing from classmates). This can wreak havoc on a child's emotions during their formative years. As a result, mental health has become a significant concern for most parents. Emergency room visits for mental health reasons increased 24% among children ages 5-11 and 31% among those aged 12-17 in 2020. Further, a federal survey of public schools from the spring of 2022 highlighted how 76% of respondents said faculty and staff members expressed concerns about depression, anxiety, and trauma in students since the start of the pandemic.

Parents have a critical role to play to help close these learning gaps in K-12

Parents have a critical role to play in getting today's youth back on track and thriving again. It starts with understanding the areas where your child could use some additional help. You can check out our kindergarten skills checklist and our "Mastering Math" series for 1st graders, 2nd graders, 3rd graders, 4th graders, 5th graders, 6th graders, and 7th graders to assist you. The reality is teachers and schools are struggling to adapt their instruction to address all of the different needs of their students. As students continue to fall further behind due to the compounding problems from the pandemic, the question remains:

❓ How do you teach two years' worth of curriculum in just one school year?

It can't be done. That's why the real solution will require support BOTH inside AND outside the classroom to ensure our children are set up for success. Beehive is playing its part by giving parents an affordable and scalable alternative to tutoring in the form of Beehive's Growth Plans. Our expert learning coaches take the concept of personalized learning to a whole new level with parents having the added convenience that it can all be done from the palm of their hand!