While the format and effectiveness of distance learning vary, researchers have modeled two potential scenarios for COVID-19 school closures. The first is a COVID-19 slowdown where students maintained the same level of academic achievement as attained at the beginning of the school closures, without making the additional gains expected from in-person schooling. The second is a COVID-19 slide where students experienced a learning loss during the period of distance learning that is similar to the learning loss during summers out of school. A COVID-19 slowdown projects minimal learning loss, but the estimates of a COVID-19 slide project that students are likely to experience a 30% learning loss overall with a 50% or higher learning loss in math. Like the differential pattern in summer, children in more affluent households are likely to experience less learning loss due to the additional resources these families have to support their children’s education.
The disruption in education, as well as the social and emotional disturbance from the pandemic, suggests that students will require more academic and social-emotional supports in the upcoming school year and beyond. However, many Black, Latinx, and low-income students were already in schools and classrooms that pre-pandemic failed to provide them with a quality education. Thus, reopening schools without paying attention to issues of equity will only exacerbate the challenges these students face.