For the past two years, education has experienced unprecedented interruptions as the world has grappled with the COVID 19 pandemic. In 2020 when schools were forced to shutter abruptly, many did so without the infrastructure to fully support students through virtual learning. Math skills, in particular, were vulnerable to the ‘COVID slide,’ and studies based on data collected from computer-adaptive tests predicted that students could learn half or up to a full year less math in 2020-2021 than they would in a typical school year. It was estimated that students could experience more than four months of lost learning in math compared to a month or two in reading. To a large extent, these predictions came true. Comparing 2020 test results from more than 4.4 million students to those from the fall of 2019, the Northwest Evaluation Association confirmed an average 5 to 10 percentile-point difference in math.
This learning regression is attributed to the fact that math, more so than reading, is almost always formally learned at school, and parents tend to be less equipped to help their children with math. Up to 1 in 5 U.S. adults report severe math anxiety, and 67% of teachers say students’ math anxiety is a challenge. Stress impacts learning and retention; therefore, increased pandemic-related stressors may magnify these anxieties and negatively impact learning even further.
Luckily, there are effective ways to counteract ‘COVID slide,’ and tutoring is proven to be one of them. A collaborative evidence review conducted by Northwestern University, University of Toronto, and MIT indicated that tutoring programs consistently lead to significant improvements in learning outcomes. While the added instructional time inherent to private tutoring certainly helps, customized instruction that can adapt to each student has a powerful impact on learning. Tutoring also allows for increased engagement and rapid feedback missing in the traditional classroom setting. In this time of social distancing, the mentor relationship formed between student and tutor can also improve academic performance.
Although we certainly hope that we are nearing the end of the pandemic, the impacts on learning are likely to persist. Tutoring is a proven effective tool that can help make up for lost time and help your student excel despite the challenges of the past two years.