Addressing Learning Loss in the English Language Arts Classroom

If you’ve been following the news, you’ve probably heard about learning loss.


By definition, learning loss refers to any loss of learned skills or knowledge due to gaps or interruptions in a student’s education. In the past, learning loss was generally associated with periods of time, like summer break, or problems among individual students, such as extended absences.


Now, in the era of the COVID-19 pandemic, learning loss has become an even greater issue as students and teachers continue to navigate this fractured school year.


According to estimates by McKinsey & Company, a consulting firm, students in the United States have lost an average of three months of learning in math and 1.5 months in reading based on test data collected by Curriculum Associates’ i-Ready platform.


Other reports project far greater impact. Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes estimates that, based on a typical 180-day school year, days of lost learning among American students range from 57 to 183 days in reading and 136 to 232 days in math by the end of the 2019-2020 school year. This equates to about half a year of learning in reading and a full year of learning in math.


For students attending remote classes, the quality of instruction matters, too. Another report by McKinsey estimates that students could lose three to four months of learning if they receive average remote instruction, seven to 11 months with lower-quality remote instruction, and 12 to 14 months if they don’t receive any instruction at all.


As current reports on learning loss are only an estimate, it may take years for educators to fully understand the impact of the pandemic on student development.


Assisting the Nation’s Schools


On March 11, 2021, President Joe Biden signed the American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act of 2021 into law. This stimulus bill is designed to help reinvigorate the economy and provide financial relief for businesses, families, and individuals as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.


Included in the ARP Act is approximately $122 billion for K-12 school funding called the ARP Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ARP ESSER) Fund. Divided among the nation’s education departments and school districts, ARP ESSER funds are meant to help schools safely reopen for in-person learning and mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on education.


According to the bill, 20% of any money received by school districts must be directed to programs to reverse learning loss among students affected by the pandemic. This includes summer learning or enrichment programs, afterschool programs, and/or extended school year programs.


Other ways schools may use the funds to reverse learning loss as outlined in the act include:

  • Administering and using high-quality assessments that are valid and reliable, to accurately assess students’ academic progress and assist educators in meeting students’ academic needs, including through differentiating instruction

  • Implementing evidence-based activities to meet the comprehensive needs of students

  • Providing information and assistance to parents and families on how they can effectively support students, including in a distance learning environment

  • Tracking student attendance and improving student engagement in distance education

The act also provides an additional $100 million of funds available through September 2023 for the Institute of Education Sciences to research the effects of learning loss caused by the pandemic.


Reversing Learning Loss in English Language Arts Education


With the 2021-2022 school year on the horizon, there’s talk of schools potentially reopening for full in-person learning in the fall. But reversing learning loss can’t be done just by putting students back in the classroom. Without a solid curriculum designed to reinforce key skills at grade-appropriate levels, there may not be much progress.


In the English language arts classroom, this means crafting a comprehensive, engaging teaching plan that tackles the core subjects like reading, writing, and vocabulary. And to do that, you’ll need the right resources.


For teachers looking to improve student literacy but don’t have time to source the right reading material, Reading Informational Texts and Reading Literature can help. The books in both series contain a selection of grade-appropriate passages and accompanying short-answer questions to encourage critical thinking. All passages are annotated in each edition; notes in Reading Informational Texts reveal rhetorical techniques, explain historical context, and clarify logical arguments, while comments in Reading Literature share definitions for tough vocabulary words, interpretations of difficult passages, and explanations of unfamiliar allusions.


Getting students reacquainted with the rules behind language and communication is easy with Grammar for Writing. This guide uses a descriptive approach to help students learn how language works and why grammar rules exist. Each chapter tackles a specific grammar concept, such as the logic of punctuation, clauses and phrases, sentence structure, and parts of speech. Students then practice their grammar with writing exercises, not by completing simple multiple-choice questions.


If you’re looking for one resource that encompasses all areas of English language arts, consider Vocabulary Power Plus. Unlike other vocabulary programs that merely focus on word acquisition, Vocabulary Power Plus introduces new words alongside essential grammar, writing, and reading practice to strengthen students’ core language arts skills. Each book includes lessons on over 200 high-impact words, context-based vocabulary questions, reading comprehension activities, and writing and grammar exercises modeled after the SAT and other standardized tests.


Students who study from home or work in a 1:1 classroom can benefit from Vocabulary Power Plus Online, a digital program designed to improve vocabulary skills in just a few minutes of practice a week. Over the course of the series, students will learn more than 1,200 high-level words, thanks to interactive exercises, context-based activities, and summative assessments. Best of all, Vocabulary Power Plus Online features dedicated experiences for both students and teachers, giving you the control you need to make the program work for your classes.


If you need advice on tackling learning loss in your school or would like information about any of these ELA resources, please send a message to our customer service team at info@prestwickhouse.com, or give us a call at 1-800-932-4593. We’re here to help you start the next school year with ease!


This post originally appeared on the Prestwick House blog.