I have read articles, posts, and tweets about how we can't possibly say students have lost any learning through a pandemic, as long as they are able to get through the pandemic. This seems to be a false equivalence, as what I have witnessed is a divergence in the students who have shown up every day compared to those who have not.
Student 1 shows up to class every day. They decide to show themself on camera, respond occasionally in the chat, and turn in most of the work assigned. They are often seen in/near a bed, sometimes laying down. They aren't feeling motivated, but know that school is a place where they need to be, and they do enough work to get by. Some of it is probably copied or scanned from an app, but there is a clear effort to complete the work. Heck, there are even times when it's obvious that someone has helped them by writing the work for them.
Student 2 shows up to class every day. They decide to show themself on camera, respond to everything in the chat or by unmuting their microphone. They sit upright at the desk in their room, turn in work that is highlighted and meticulous, wanting to stay ahead. They get some answers wrong, even though they know that there are apps and services out there to do the work for them. They attend office hours when it is helpful, and will take the initiative to ask for assistance when necessary.
I'm not talking about Student 1 or Student 2 when I talk about learning loss.
Student 3 shows up to class some days/most days/every day. They might turn on their camera the beginning of the period, or leave it on as their ceiling fan gets a full workout, only to be left alone for the remainder of the class period. They will rarely turn in work, and it is often either impeccably done with too many answers (I won't assign the whole thing, and tell the students in the meeting which problems to do) or it is incomplete. Student 3 does not respond in the chat, does not ask for help or attend office hours, and will often be in the group of the last students in the meeting, even though I dismissed them 5 minutes prior.
THESE are the students I am referencing when I think about, and talk about, learning loss. I can empathize with students who have lost the motivation to complete any work, and to even show up and remain attentive. I have had students share that they will mute their teacher and watch a movie during class; this is learning loss, a lost opportunity to learn. I have had students share that they get into the meeting so that they're marked present, and go out to work with a family member; this is learning loss, a lost opportunity to learn. There are other scenarios, but these two should paint a sufficient picture of the students I am most concerned about when referring to learning loss.
This year in my Math 2 course, we have gone into detail about recursive and explicit equations, functions and patterns, quadratic functions, geometry, trig ratios, and more. We trimmed a lot of content to account for seeing students twice a week. We assigned no more than two things per week. We have now slowed down to cover one lesson per week through the remainder of the year. I say this to clarify that it is not a coverage issue. For Student 1 and Student 2, they have received an ample amount of content to be successful in the next course, Integrated Math 3. For Student 1 and Student 2, we know that there are going to be some areas we need to review and fill in next year, but that there is a foundational understanding of the key concepts we need them to know.
For Student 3, we have no idea what they know/don't know because they haven't turned in authentic work. To wrap my head around this, I looked up numbers, and out of my 170 students, 29 of them are currently in a position of "learning loss" through my description. SEVENTEEN PERCENT of my students are turning in nearly no work, missing multiple days, not engaging in chats/discussion, and not turning in assessments. No tutoring program or late-semester intervention is going to get them up to the level of their peers, so they are, by definition, behind. They have lost a learning opportunity.
For that 17 percent of my classes, I worry. I have not been able to build community the ways in which I had hoped, and now that we are a month from the end of the school year, I don't know what else to do. Counselors and administrators have contacted and attempted home visits. I have sent messages. I continue to attempt engagement when we are in the class setting. The return to in-person learning will be rocky and messy and exciting and chaotic all at once, and my hope is that this group of students find a way to regain their sense of belonging in a school setting.
We return to hybrid in-person/remote learning next week, and I can only hope that what was lost is slowly able to be found again.
Happy "In Search Of The Lost" Fishing