The pandemic has changed the lives of billions of people, especially students. It has changed how many schools approach learning, and with what tools. Students have been set back months of learning, and the lockdown has exposed many issues with the static approach to learning. Even well-prepared schools have struggled to set up good online learning environments. While administration and distribution of resources have a significant impact on learning, student motivation and home conditions are still primary factors in person and online.
Online learning has negatively impacted many students, for a wide variety of reasons. Many teachers think the lack of student-to-student interaction is to blame. Lectures are difficult to learn from, especially for younger children. Self-motivation is also a big deal when teachers cannot directly interact with students easily. Being willing to rewatch lectures or use outside tools is particularly important in online learning and lecture type learning. The final potential reason is home condition. Parents’ willingness to help and motivate their students has a substantial impact on both learning and grades. In addition, some studies show socioeconomic gaps were widened during school closures and disadvantaged homes had more pronounced effects. This may not just be limited to access to technology either. According to PNAS, in the Netherlands, schools and students were technologically prepared but still suffered the discrepancies between income levels. Schools may need to adjust how they teach and communicate to reach all students.
Not all learning was affected in the same way. Students lost less learning time for reading than they did for math according to McKinsey & Company, with testing for reading comprehension after online learning gave mostly normal results with math giving below expected results. The learning rate for reading and math has also returned to normal after the in-person learning started up. Additionally, students in highly educated homes, defined by having at least one parent with a secondary education, lost far less learning in math and math adjacent subjects. High-income rural areas lost only two to three months of learning on average, compared to the six to seven months of low-income urban students according to McKinsey & Company. Even with these home problems, how schools respond still has a significant impact on learning. Technological preparedness and returning to in person learning quickly were the major factors. Schools in the rural areas tended to return to in person learning quickly, and had better learning retention, though this does not account for the risks involved in higher exposure to COVID. However, many students at Issaquah seemed to think this exposure was worth the risk. Freshman Ian Paine says that online school was “hard, and had a lot less learning” and supported the return to in person learning in the fall. Masks and cleaning help slow the spread of COVID during hybrid learning and the beginning of the school year, and recent research shows that mask wearing has had a notable impact on limiting COVID spread.
Our school administration has done fairly well in response to the pandemic. The school district acted quickly to lock down schools, though they waited a long time to reopen. While in retrospect some believe that schools could have and should have opened earlier, most decisions were guided by the medical advice given at the time and were effective in stopping the spread of COVID. Following the mask mandate to wear masks and dropping the requirement to wear masks played a big part in slowing the spread of COVID and was widely supported. Senior Anna Jacobson says that it was wise for the school to “continue to follow medical advice.” The school’s approach to online learning was not as successful. Online schooling went poorly with classes becoming far more lecture like and learning becoming more difficult for many students. This lecture approach did work well for some students, Sophomore Tevi Segal says online schooling had “a lot less restriction.” The district may not have been able to do anything about the situation, as making a classroom-like environment online is difficult even with preparation and correct tools. Junior Momoka Fukushima says that the school might have been able to “encourage people to interact and participate more” during online learning.
Overall, the district’s approach to online learning was in line with expected results. Schools everywhere struggled to adapt to online learning and the pandemic, and learning suffered both across the country and internationally. On average months of learning were lost over the pandemic students, though the learning loss highly divided. While schools had a big part to play in preparing the right tools and systems for students, home conditions and self-motivation were the main factors in determining how well students did in online learning. Schools have a lot to learn about learning from this pandemic, both about students and in how they administrate.