More than 50 million schoolchildren in the United States alone have spent the past several months not sitting in class, not studying with friends, not working through math problems with a teacher by their side. Educators are bracing for a “COVID slide” in performance when—or if—students return to school in the fall.
A decade of research at RAND provides some insight into what that will look like, and what school districts can do to get students back on track. Researchers have been studying how to prevent learning loss during what was, until now, the biggest break on the school calendar—summer vacation.
Their advice to parents and school leaders: Some kids are in danger of getting left behind; they’re the ones who can least afford it; and it will take more than a standard school year to help them catch up.
“What teachers are going to face in their classrooms when school resumes is a lot of variation in what students are ready for, much more variation than they’re used to,” said Jennifer McCombs, a senior policy researcher and director of the Behavioral and Policy Sciences Department at RAND. “School leaders will need to provide more quality after-school and summer programming to get kids caught up.”