Whatever you choose to call it – learning loss, learning disruption, or unfinished learning – there is widespread agreement among educators, parents, and other caregivers focused on the needs of K-12 learners that COVID-19-related disruptions had a serious impact on their education.

But dig a little deeper and the story becomes more complex and nuanced. Children in different states had very different experiences based on policies dictating in-person vs remote learning, for example. Different socioeconomic groups were also impacted in different ways. Virtually any way you decide to dissect the data, which is still emerging, you’re likely to be able to find significant differentiation between endless subgroups.

Importance of understanding learning differences

Understanding these differences in learning experiences has always been important for educators, whether in the context of a pandemic or in more “normal” circumstances.

The better we understand where learners need help and support, the better we can educate them. But achieving this level of understanding has taken on even more importance at this unique moment in public education in the United States.

Why? Because in response to the impact of the pandemic, school districts are about to receive an unprecedented, transformative amount of funding – approximately $200 billion, depending on how you measure it. That’s five times more funding than our schools are accustomed to receiving.

Plus, this funding ends in 2023 – so school districts need to quickly set strategies for using these funds in smart ways that have the biggest possible impact, today and well into the future, once funding levels are likely to return to normal levels.

Analytics can solve educational challenges

There is no shortage of “shiny objects” on which districts can spend money. But which are most likely to have the right impact on the learners most in need of support? Without understanding exactly which learners have been most impacted by pandemic-era education practices, as well as how they’ve been impacted, districts are at risk of squandering this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to transform the educational experience for all K-12 learners.

That’s where data and analytics can make an enormous difference.  Districts have been collecting robust levels of data for years, and while the pandemic disrupted testing and data collection in many, with a reinvigorated approach to analytics it’s possible to generate accurate forecasts of projected learning trajectories, all the way down to the individual student level.

Learn how SAS empowers education leaders to glean deeper insights from better data to improve student outcomes

Using that information, educators and administrators can make more informed, effective decisions about where to invest resources – assess, then address.

So where should educators and administrators start when it comes to using analytics? There are many options – too many, in fact. Based on our own experiences working as educators and analytics professionals, we believe districts and states should use analytics to help answer four key questions:

  • Which student groups experienced the greatest disruption to their learning, compared with their peers?
  • What are the patterns of learning disruption across different grades and subjects?
  • What is the impact of different learning environments on students?
  • What worked? Which exemplars emerged from the COVID-19 “experiment”?

Want to know more about why these particular questions are so important, and how to use analytics to begin answering them now? I recently spoke to Larry Rother, the Global Education Specialist at Intel (and a former educator himself) in depth about this topic as part of our webinar on using data and analytics to understand the impact of COVID-19 on the education achievement gap.

Register to watch the FREE webinar and learn strategies for solving COVID-era learning challenges in K-12 education. 


About Author

Melody Schopp, PhD

Director of Education Industry Consulting, SAS

Melody Schopp, PhD serves as the Director of Education Industry Consulting at the SAS Institute, supporting the Education Practice to empower education leaders and states to use analytics to improve student outcomes. Following two decades of classroom experience, Schopp entered the South Dakota Department of Education, where she served in numerous director positions, including deputy secretary. She was appointed Secretary of Education by Governor Dennis Daugaard in 2010 and served seven years as part of his cabinet. Before joining SAS in 2020, Schopp spent three years as a national education consultant with various clients focused on improving academic and emotional opportunities for students. Schopp was privileged to serve in leadership positions for various national organizations. She was a board member and elected president of the Council of Chief State School Officers. Additionally, she was treasurer of the Education Commission of the States and on the board of directors of Jobs for America’s Graduates (JAG). Schopp has a bachelor’s and master’s degree in education, and a PhD from the University of Lincoln, Nebraska, in higher education and leadership.

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