A two week break: something that seemed like heaven to students when it was first mandated on March 13, 2020. But what started as a pleasant break turned into a two year nightmare, one that now has found to cut deeper into students’ lives than it already has.
Through various studies conducted over the course of the past two years, it was discovered that many students who participated in distance learning showed signs of learning loss as time progressed, a CNBC report estimating a drop in standardized test scores in northern California ranging from as mild as 2.91% to as severe as 8.18%, with grades 4-7 being the most affected.
To see MVHS’ side of the situation, I talked to Mr. Cina Abedzadeh, the assistant principal who specializes in guidance and curriculum here at Mission Viejo High School.
In regards to the pandemic, Abedzadeh had a similar stance on distance learning, yet some other unique and agreeable opinions to go along with it.
“I know distance learning did not help and it wasn’t what was best for students at the time, but having said that I firmly believe that we had to go on it because we knew so little about the Covid-19 and the dangers. I totally understand the whole concept behind closing the doors, but I also know that it wasn’t the best for students.”
While believing there was an obvious downside to online learning, Abedzadeh found a positive outcome of the situation.
“I will say what came out of that was an advancement in teachers’ ability to use technology, how we use technology and being consistent with learning platforms like a Google Classroom or Canvas. I think that really pushed teachers to be more proactive in that realm and that was a benefit.”
When asked what he believed the root of the case of learning loss was, Abedzadeh believed part of it was the false security that was created during those two years of online learning.
“I think there’s a false sense of security for about two years right where the state intervened with how grades can be determined. A kid could go from a pass/no pass rather than having a letter grade. A lot of safety nets were built into the systems a few years ago where those safety nets no longer exist. Now, when I look back on it we one thousand percent needed those safety nets”
While in many cases distance learning negatively impacted schools and students as a whole, those in poverty seemed to have significantly larger problems because of this occurrence.
In a report done by CNBC, it was found that the school district of Galt, an area known for having high poverty rates, had a less pleasant time out of most California schools from the pandemics. In the district, standardized test scores had a significant drop, with a 3.14% decline in ELA scores while having a 5.46% decline in math.
In contrast, those who were wealthier were able to gain access to outside sources, being able to improve their education while poor students suffered greater effects.
However, those in places of high poverty were not the only ones severely affected by online learning. Black and hispanic students were also seen having setbacks due to this phenomenon, many of these students not being given the right tools such as internet access, computer access, and time with teachers to improve their education.
An article by Shainne Winston touched on this topic, stating that researchers estimated that 12-16 months of learning for students of color may be lost due to the pandemic, as opposed to white students who were predicted to have only lost 5-9 months.
Disabled students were yet another group that unfortunately seemed to take heavy hits. Whilst learning online, many of the disabled had to receive their personal support online, a daunting result that had long-lasting problems. When people started returning to their jobs and schools, there was a wave of resignations from special needs staff members, which caused the department to become understaffed.
To combat the issues created by online learning, multiple schools were reliant on summer school to fix the problems created.
Schools have also gone the alternative route of urging students into taking tutoring opportunities or providing it in their classrooms. However, this solution can become costly to the students and schools. In addition, students would need independent help, which can be difficult to provide for every struggling student.
Here at Mission Viejo High School, many actions are being taken to combat the problems created by online learning. When asked about this, Abedzadeh said, “There are a lot of funds that are dedicated towards learning loss. We were granted extra funds to create the diablo learning centers, tutoring sessions built within the bell schedule, before the bell schedule, during lunch, and after lunch for students to go get help. We [also] have our NHS and CSF tutors pushed into those sessions to help students.”
Learning loss during quarantine wasn’t the only large impact on students during the past few years. Throughout this period, kids, teens, and even most adults lacked social interaction, which, in retrospect, made the return to normal life a more challenging task.
While some may argue that individuals were able to keep up socially through online interactions, the idea of physically being in the same room while engaging in a conversation was nonexistent for the past two years, making it harder to do once people were able to step outside of their homes.
To find out more about the social effects of online learning for students, I talked to Piper Smith, a Freshman at MVHS who did not believe the pandemic affected her social skills positively.
“It kinda made me distant from people other than my family. I couldn’t see anyone which made it hard to interact with other people”
While it may seem like a lost cause, the effects of learning loss and other resulting factors from the pandemic could be lessened. With enough effort and commitment, it is not impossible to come back to normal life after spending what seemed like forever confined to our home.