Difficult to Start School

It seems that our expectations for when we can start school continue to be pushed back in time and down in quality. Although this pandemic is widespread, I think we had all hoped that by now we would have some good-enough-to-start-school thoughts and guidance to effectively open schools. We don’t have either.


In research we look at time as finite. The research project will take place between these two dates, for example. Or, we will interview these students in March. A finite time period helps us limit the variable of time. In schools, we always think of the school year as the finite time period. And in comparing schools we think of approximately 180 days, stretching over two calendar years, or one academic year, as the time period that we can reliably use to compare schools to each other.


Of course, with the time period set, we turn next to the intervention, let’s say it is reading. Once the time of one year is agreed upon, we take reading scores pre- and post- in that one year, and now we know how much gain the students made on reading scores in one year. This is very acceptable practice but it does rely on an assumption that time is the same for both, or for many, or for all schools. Time is however, not the same, and therefore, quality is not the same.

Teaching and Learning

So if we look at what happened last year, when COVID-19 hit, we lost about two or three months of school. What happened to teaching and learning? Many describe it as a learning loss, much like the summer learning loss. Maybe two months out of nine months of teaching is the first way we could calculate the cost to learning….maybe 22% loss. But children experienced a major disruption to their lives and those of their parents…so maybe the loss is greater….perhaps 50%? Teaching and learning have suffered a major loss of some amount that we will be better able to measure in the future.

Going Foward

So even if we started at full speed, time, and strength of teaching and learning models, the quality would be dampened from the lingering effects of the last academic year. But, we will not start strong as the Pandemic is still with us! The largest loss in my opinion was the personalization of teaching and learning. Going forward we need to pick up that personalization while still staying safe! What would that look like? One on one zoom learning? Group pods of learners in someone’s house? Individual learning where students learn from the best teachers they can find online?

Time and Quality

Whatever we choose, personalization of teaching and learning must be re-established, because time and quality depend on this variable. Students learn better from more dynamic teachers and teachers teach better when students are engaged and asking questions. We need to personalize while staying safe.

Dr. Robert A. Southworth, Jr.

Dr. Robert A. Southworth, Jr.

Share this article:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

More from EdSpeak

Discover the tools and strategies modern schools need to help their students grow.

Community Schools Reform

As a seasoned researcher of K-12 public schools and someone dedicated to improving the quality, equity, and creativity in education, I wholeheartedly support the proposal

Read More »

Subscribe to EdSpeak!

The SchoolWorks Lab Blog, connecting teaching to policy through research.