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Making Learning Recovery Equitable for All

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At Horizons, we talk a lot about ‘learning loss’ and ‘learning recovery.’ You might hear us use phrases like “equitable learning recovery” or “pandemic recovery,” too. But what do these words really mean?

Historically, ‘learning loss’ has been used to describe the educational setbacks a student may experience during prolonged time away from school or other learning opportunities. At Horizons, we often use the term ‘summer learning loss,’ referring specifically to the up to 2 months of academic skills a student may lose if they do not experience enriching summer activities.

Throughout the pandemic, a new term emerged: COVID learning loss, or the COVID Slide. This is defined as the erosion of academic, social, and emotional skills due to disrupted schooling caused by the pandemic – especially for students in communities most impacted by school closures. The COVID Slide caused children to lose months and sometimes years’ worth of progress in reading and math skills, not to mention limited opportunities to socialize, play, and just be kids. A recent study by the Center on Reinventing Public Education (CRPE) showed historically low math and reading scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, as well as spikes in high school course failure rates in districts across the country.

All education institutions can play a role in supporting students’ pandemic recovery by partnering with extended learning programs like Horizons. Horizons’ focus is on equitable learning recovery: helping students make up for lost time and regain their skills, while ensuring that all children have opportunities to make friends, stay active, and find joy in learning. Our use of ‘equitable’ is important and intentional: learning recovery will not be a one-size-fits-all endeavor, and equity demands not that each child receives the same support, but that each receives the specific support that will help them succeed. Especially for our youngest learners, who are showing the most prolonged impacts, an equitable approach is essential to ensuring that learning is joyful and effective.

It is important to note, too, that learning isn’t the only part of an equitable recovery; children also need opportunities to build new relationships, explore their interests and hobbies, and contribute positively to their communities. Programs like Horizons, that partner with education institutions to support students in exploring, creating, taking on challenges, and owning their learning, are the solution to helping all students catch up.

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