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Learning loss has hit our community hard

Learning loss is something that will, unfortunately, impact nearly every student across this state due to the COVID pandemic and the less than ideal circumstances associated with remote learning.

This was apparent for our families at the African Leadership Group; we didn’t realize this until we launched our online tutoring program.

Last October, when we launched the tutoring program, the first thing we did was go through each of our student’s grades. We were astonished to see how behind many of our students were in their classes. For most of our students, remote learning from home during the coronavirus pandemic has been dysfunctional. They are not learning. Or they are struggling to learn from behind the barrier of a computer screen in virtual school.

When we asked one of our students why was he failing he said “I hate it. It’s boring and you can’t focus. A lot of work is burying you all at once. At home, there are distractions, and you stay up too late at night.” He also mentioned how easy it was for students to cheat during online school. Many of our students echoed the same sentiment.

When we asked our student’s dad, Samba, his thoughts about his student falling behind, he said: “To be honest, I don’t have time to watch over him and I don’t understand how to use a computer. Our internet is not so good. I hope he’s going to school online all day. He better be doing his work. I tell him he’ll be in trouble if he’s not, but how would I really know?”

Now, that his son is back in person Samba feels better about his learning.

Like Samba, many parents in our community were essential workers and it was hard for them to be at home to support their kids during school. Some didn’t even know of the learning loss that had been happening.

However, with the tutoring program we offered, we were able to help some of our students bring their grades up. But that was not enough. What we also found was some of our students were reading below grade level and were behind on math.

What we did with our student was get them that one-on-one time with our tutors so we could meet them where they’re at to elevate them. We would love to expand this program to more students with more resources available.

The equity gaps between white students and students of color, rich students and poor students, and English language learners and native speakers was always there but this pandemic just widened it. Few of the students we had in our program were English learners who were already behind, but watching those students struggle every day in tutoring showed how behind they were. That goes for a lot of English learners in our community.

The repercussions of learning loss during the pandemic have the potential to be long-lasting, particularly for our students.  I believe with COVID relief funding for education made available, legislators and school districts should use those resources to support students through tutoring programs, expand summer school programs, and provide teachers resources.

Additional social services should be provided during the regular school year to get them back to grade level and on track to succeed.

Tapsuru Ba
Tapsuru "Ousman" Ba graduated from Colorado State University with a bachelor’s in international studies and political science. He currently works for ALG as program coordinator.

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