Learning loss during the pandemic and how to get our students back to reading on grade-level

As we gear up for the new school year, many students are still in need of extra support to make up for disrupted learning during the pandemic. studies show kids are behind in reading achievement, especially in the early grades.

In Houston, tens of thousands of students will need intervention in core subjects due to learning loss and failure to meet academic standards

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Julie Baker Finck, President of the Barbara Bush Literacy Foundation says concerns remain high about the impact COVID-19 has had on students.

"We're seeing, unprecedented numbers of children who are not meeting grade level, not meeting standard on the star exam," she said.


According to the Texas Education Agency, statewide, districts with a higher percentage of students learning virtually experienced larger learning declines in all grades and subjects. 

"Here in HISD alone, they found that more than 50% of children by the end of the 2021 school year, were working remotely and learning at home," says Finck.

In Harris County, 1 in 3 adults is considered functionally illiterate, many of whom students relied on for help with at-home and distance learning. Districts are now preparing to help students get back on track, some are even hiring additional staff through the elementary and secondary school emergency relief fund.

"Many districts are also looking at tutoring programs, whether they're in school pullout or small group, other interventions, whether they're technology-based interventions and supports after school weekend programs," says Finck.

The Boys and Girls Club of Greater Houston also recognizes the need to help students catch up.

"You know the pandemic has made a situation in which we had kids that are already behind, it has been exacerbated by that, " says Zenae Campbell, VP of program services and club operations.

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She says they're working on ways to lessen the loss.

"We are looking at smaller group sizes for literacy intervention so based on STAR test scores based on grades and how young people are doing, we're able to start, ensuring that the appropriate resources go to kids who may need it, you know may need those interventions services more," says Campbell.

Through their partnerships and staff training, the clubs are planning to use specific strategies in tutoring among other things, but parents will also play a vital role this fall and beyond.

"Just increasing reading and talking time with their child to help bolster that so that they're getting more practice, and more time of exercise exercising those literacy skills," says Campbell.

"Parents need to be asking questions of their child's teacher about where are they, where's their child performing academically, what are areas and activities that they can do at home to reinforce, parents need to continue to speak to their teacher about the homework assignments and what they're learning, " adds Finck.


There's no short-term fix for the amount of time loss, but together district leaders, educators, parents, and volunteers can equip students with the skills they need to be successful.

The Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation and the Mayor’s Office for Adult Literacy, have partnered together to address the issue and provide a plan for action through Houston’s Adult Literacy Blueprint.

Click here to learn more about the initiative.