The pandemic and its effects on K-12 learning


The COVID-19 pandemic has upended our daily lives—and the way students in grades K-12 have experienced learning since early 2020. Much has been written about “learning loss,” as well as their effects on student success in the short and longer terms, but what does that actually look like for your children at home? And, more importantly, what solutions can we look to in the future? 

‍In this blog, we’ll talk about three ways the pandemic affected K-12 learning, and what that means for students and families.

1. Constantly changing schedules

We all experienced the rollercoaster ride that was the 2020-2021 school year: from emergency school closures to completely remote instruction to hybrid models that often required a herculean amount of coordination. And, as schools slowly opened back up, more options often meant more schedules to keep track of: going to school on alternating days of the week, sometimes in the morning and sometimes in the afternoon, or in two-day blocks at a time.

No matter what your child’s specific schedule looked like, it was probably a far cry from the structure and consistency they were used to—and one of the most important parts of the school learning experience.


2. New forms of instruction

As much as today’s school experience involves technology, from educational tools to school-home communication, the challenges of remote learning took everyone by surprise. In hindsight, many of these difficulties came from that initial transition: equipping students with devices and internet access, dealing with technical issues, and translating a fully in-person curriculum into a digital one—complete with figuring out the right expectations for everyone along the way.

While few of us would choose pandemic-flavored distance learning as a primary mode of instruction, it’s also worth noting that students are now much more familiar with different forms of learning. And, as we continue to discover what our new normal looks like, there might be an opportunity to incorporate formats like video conferencing and online curriculum into how we’re able to support student learning.

3. Mental health challenges

Many students have experienced anxiety, depression, and stress during the pandemic, and the statistics are alarming: From March 2020 to October 2020, there was an increase in emergency mental health visits for both elementary-aged students as well as secondary-aged students. Overall, about 51% of K-12 students felt more stressed and 39% felt lonelier due to the pandemic.

The lack of in-person instruction also correlates with the percentage of students who feel like they don’t have access to support when they’re struggling. According to a 2021 study, only 64% of high school students enrolled in full-time remote instruction said they felt like they could talk to an adult at school if they were “feeling upset, stressed, or having problems”—an indicator of the role that educators play in not only students’ academic success but their overall wellbeing.

51% of K-12 students felt more stressed and 39% felt lonelier due to the mental health effects of the pandemic.

The path forward

For all the challenges that students have faced during the pandemic, we’ve also seen how resilient they can be—whether they’ve learned how to resolve problems, adapt to constantly changing circumstances, discover how they learn best, or advocate for themselves.

As parents, you also have options for helping to support their children outside of the classroom. These include: 

  • Looking for programs or classes, whether at school or in the community, that focus specifically on social and emotional learning.
  • Finding a tutor to help your child work through subject areas that they may be struggling with in a one-on-one environment.
  • Asking your school what learning opportunities or programs might be available to help students address pandemic-related effects.

The past year has been historically difficult  for students, families, and everyone else in their learning communities, but it’s also allowed us to look forward with new knowledge. Understanding the challenges that have affected our students the most will help us move forward with the most impact.

In what other ways has the pandemic changed learning for your child?