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Askwith Education Forum

Askwith Education Forum Targets Pandemic Learning Loss

Panelists address the complex educational landscape leaders face as funding opportunities end later this year

Creating meaningful and measurable educational progress in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic was front and center at Askwith Hall on Tuesday night. The latest Askwith Education Forum, “The Push to Close COVID-Era Gaps: Acting on New Findings from the Education Recovery Scorecard” featured a panel of experts sharing data and examples of how educators around the country are working to solve the complex issue of learning loss.

The forum began with a presentation from Professor Tom Kane, faculty director of the Center for Education Policy Research (CEPR) at Harvard University and the co-author of the Education Recovery Scorecard. Kane shared sobering statistics about learning loss in reading and mathematics scores across the country during school shutdowns and remote learning efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Now it’s on us to ask what role can we play in helping to ensure that the recovery continues and students fully recover, at least to 2019 levels, and then beyond,” said Kane.

Incoming CEPR Executive Director Christina Grant then hosted a panel featuring Kane along with educators and other elected officials from around the country as they discussed the findings and how their school districts have used evidence-based research to make meaningful change in the classroom. For some, the disruption caused by the pandemic was an opportunity to measure the already-existing gaps in learning across a school district.

“We were all able to see in plain sight how important our schools are to our communities and our neighborhoods and our families,” said Aleesia Johnson, superintendent of Indianapolis Public Schools, “And also the disparities that exist amongst the different schools and districts.”

Askwith Forum moderator Christina Grant
Incoming CEPR Executive Director Christina Grant moderated the Askwith Education Forum on April 2, 2024
Photo: Jill Anderson

Much of the forum focused on issues like chronic absenteeism, which has seen a notable surge in the wake of the pandemic and correlates considerably to learning loss in reading and mathematics. Potential solutions like high-dosage tutoring, extending the school year, and other interventions were weighed by panelists who all acknowledged the complexities of each potential fix.

“I knew for the recovery to happen you couldn’t do it just inside of a school day,” Rhode Island governor Daniel McKee said, referencing the state’s Learn365RI initiative, an out-of-school learning program announced last year. “It’s kind of like putting 13 eggs into a 12-egg carton. There’s not enough time.”

Despite the difficult road ahead to gain back ground lost by educating amid uncertainty and extraordinary circumstances, the panelists touted the current moment as an opportunity to fix issues in education that went far beyond the COVID pandemic.

“Our strategic plan was really not just about pandemic recovery but about looking forward into what I think of as the undoing of public education,” said North Carolina State Superintendent of Public Instruction Catherine Truitt. “There’s so much that the pandemic shed light on that needs to be undone.”

Each panelist advocated for leadership in districts and governments around the country to understand the urgency of the moment, especially as federal ESSER funding is set to expire later this year.

“This really is a pivotal moment. It’s up to us, whether students recover or whether we just let these gaps remain,“ Kane said in the panel’s closing moments. “I know everybody on stage, and certainty I will be doing everything I can in the next few years to make a difference and I hope you’ll join me.”

You can watch the full Askwith Education Forum above. 

Askwith Education Forum

Bringing innovators and influential leaders to the Harvard Graduate School of Education

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