Positive Parenting: The COVID-19 slump, and how to conquer it

Connecticut Families

Most schools across the country closed in March for the academic year, prompting many districts to implement plans to keep students learning at home.

Gina Garcia teaches high school French and Spanish. When classes first went virtual, about 18 of her 30 students would attend. For some students, there’s a challenge getting access to computers or internet service. Others have new family responsibilities.

“A lot of my students are working a lot of hours. They’re working at Walmart. They’re working at HEB. Because if their parents have lost their jobs, somebody has to bring in a paycheck,” Garcia said.

Past research shows students in under-resourced communities tend to enter school with fewer academic skills and often lose more skills during summer break than their well-off peers. School attendance narrows these gaps, but lower-income students without access to resources outside of school experience summer slide. 

Professor of Psychology at Temple University, Kathy Hirsh-Pasek said, “We can see up to a 20 percent loss in reading and a 30 percent loss in math. Take summer slump or summer slide, put it to the extreme, and you would have COVID slump.”

Hirsh-Pasek said parents and students shouldn’t stress if online learning isn’t going as planned. But parents should encourage their children to stay in regular communication with their teachers about any challenges they are having.

Parents can also help younger kids by engaging them in activities that stimulate creativity. Read books and stage a play. Plan a scavenger hunt. For teens, let them get hands-on and create. Public libraries are good resources for DIY projects.

Some schools have distributed tablets and computers to students who were in need of devices for online learning. Other districts have created paper packets of work for students who don’t have access to the internet.

Hirsh-Pasek said because of the unprecedented nature of this pandemic, it’s impossible to know exactly how much of a learning slump COVID-19 will create; however, new research suggests that by the start of the next school year, some students will lose the equivalent of a full year’s worth of academic gains.

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