The NCSL Blog


By Autumn Rivera

COVID-19 created a large shift for everyone as students, teachers and parents rushed to move from in-person to virtual learning within a short time.    

Kids and adults with hands in the airHow will this learning shift affect learning loss for students?

As a part of the NCSL Education Program COVID-19 Virtual Meetings series, Aaliyah Samuel and Beth Tarasawa of the Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA) and Terry Peterson of the Riley Institute at Furman University, joined to address learning loss and approaches to summer learning.   

Samuel and Tarasawa said they expect summer learning loss every year. However, due to COVID-19, experts expect intensified social-emotional, as well as academic, learning loss. NWEA, a research-based, not-for-profit organization that supports students and educators worldwide by creating assessment solutions that precisely measure growth and proficiency, produced a brief on their predictions of COVID-19 learning loss.

Their preliminary predictions estimate that students will return with roughly 70% of their typical learning gains in reading and with less than 50% of their typical learning gains in mathematics. This information will be crucial for teacher’s individualized student evaluations in the fall.

How can we counteract some of this learning loss?  

Peterson stressed leveraging after-school and summer education to help recover some of the learning loss. He emphasized the importance of giving students somewhere to go so parents can get back to work and start to recover from the economic loss of this pandemic. He referenced a recent report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Mathematics that determined how valuable summer opportunities are for youth. Their conclusions, before COVID-19, found that summer opportunities help close learning gaps and support student needs.  

After-school programming can also provide benefits to school-aged children and their families. Minimizing unsupervised time also minimizes time for potential youth crime. If school districts move to split schedules for the fall, the amount of unsupervised time could double. Peterson said after-school programs can be a time for student success, including improved grades, attendance, confidence gain and engagement in less risky behaviors.    

Peterson cited a meta-analysis showing students can expect gains in multiple areas including improved attendance, positive social behaviors and test scores if they attend high-quality afterschool programs. He also cited researcher Deborah Vandell's report that shows how quality afterschool narrows the math gap often experienced in K-5 learning.  

Peterson made recommendations for how states could respond:

  • Change state laws to foster greater collaboration among school and community-based organizations in summer and after school.
  • Allocate a portion of a state's federal CARES K-12 monies for summer and after-school opportunities.
  • Use some CARES higher education monies to support more work-study and interns for summer and after-school programs.
  • Allocate and design some of the state's CARES childcare monies to provide summer opportunities across the state.
  • Add or refine language about summer learning and after-school learning in state school financing laws.

To hear more in-depth about these subjects, view the slides and watch the recording of the webinar. For more information about NCSL’s after-school work, visit this page. For more NCSL education resources on COVID-19, visit this page.

For more information about past or upcoming education COVID-19 virtual meetings, see the full list of upcoming meetings and watch previously recorded meetings.  

Autumn Rivera is a research analyst with NCSL’s Education Program.

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Posted in: Education, COVID-19
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This blog offers updates on the National Conference of State Legislatures' research and training, the latest on federalism and the state legislative institution, and posts about state legislators and legislative staff. The blog is edited by NCSL staff and written primarily by NCSL's experts on public policy and the state legislative institution.