The Impacts of COVID-19 on Students’ Well-Being

Schools have been closed and social isolation has increased due to the pandemic, which has affected both students living in poverty and those living in wealthier areas. Furthermore, students have lost access to services provided by schools, causing a mental health crisis. As students and teachers return to classrooms at the start of the new year, whether in the building or at home (virtually), teachers will have a major challenge: How do they help students to keep their focus and momentum throughout the year despite continuing hardships from the pandemic? Research from new sources provides insight into the scope of the problem and possible solutions.

Likelihood of a widened achievement gap

Many students will be left behind as a result of the coronavirus, research suggests. As compared to a typical school year, students are expected to start the new year with an average of 66 percent of reading gains and 44 percent of math gains in comparison to a typical school year. As a result, the researchers anticipate even bigger gains on the reading front, possibly because more students will read at home while schools are closed, thus widening the achievement gap. Researchers point out in the study that “few school systems provide plans to support students who need accommodations or other special populations,” which could negatively affect English Language Learners (ELLs) and special needs students.

Over the summer, students, like most of us, have a tendency of forgetting some of what they learned in school. It’s important to understand, however, that summer learning loss and pandemic-related learning loss aren’t the same: The researchers point out that during the summer, formal schooling ceases, and students lose learning capacity at roughly the same rate. During the pandemic, however, instruction has been uneven, as some students have been able to engage in online learning completely while others have faced obstacles, such as lack of internet access, inhibiting their progress.

Researchers at the University of Rochester analyzed a national sample of 5 million students in Grades 3–8 to assess growth in reading and math over the school year using the MAP Growth test. They compared standard year-over-year growth with projections for when students are absent from mid-March to mid-April. Researchers analyzed studies on the summer slide, closings caused by weather and disasters (such as Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans), and absenteeism to make those projections.

In reading and math, students are predicted to lose roughly three months’ worth of gains on average, and five months’ worth of gains on average. As Megan Kuhfeld, the lead author, points out, the biggest takeaway isn’t that students learn less than they used to, that’s a given by now, but that their decline rates can differ greatly.

This is most applicable in school districts that serve a wide range of families with a variety of needs and resources; districts might be faced with unprecedented levels of variability this fall. Teachers may have kids in their class who have progressed a lot, compared to students who have slipped back a lot.

Poverty and color affect students more disproportionately

Schools, according to Horace Mann, a 19th-century American educator, were previously the “great equalizers,” but the pandemic today reveals how remote learning is based on disparities. According to a 2015 Pew Research Center study, 17 percent of students were unable to complete homework projects owing to a lack of a dependable computer or internet connection. This number reaches 25 percent for black students.

Children in poverty, as well as children of color, are more likely to be affected by COVID-19, according to Kuhfeld’s findings. Furthermore, Black and Hispanic parents with children are more likely to suffer infection, and they bear a disproportionate share of the economic cost since they are less likely to be able to work from home during the epidemic. Despite the lesser risk of children contracting COVID-19, it is expected to have a severe economic impact as well as an indelible influence on children’s life.

Student mental health is impacted

A recent study in JAMA Pediatrics suggests that school closures have the potential to exacerbate the effects on the well-being of students. Kids and adolescents count on schools to provide mental health care 57 percent of the time, according to the authors of the study. Students from low-income families may be disproportionately affected by school closures since those students receive mental health services exclusively from their schools. Because of the combination of public health crisis, social isolation, and economic recession, the COVID-19 pandemic is potentially worsening existing mental health problems and leading to an increased incidence among children and adolescents, claim the authors of that study.

According to the researchers, there is a major concern because most mental health disorders begin in childhood and it is vital to identify and treat these disorders as early as possible. Leaving these disorders untreated can lead to long-term health complications. Children’s mental health services may be better delivered via video conferencing in the short run.

Researchers have found a link between psychological well-being and academic success. When a person is stressed, their brain chemistry changes, impairing cognitive abilities such as focus, memory, and creativity. A study by Cara Wellman, a professor of neuroscience and psychology at Indiana University, reported that stress negatively affects a person’s ability to regulate emotions. According to Wellman, chronic stress results in a reduction in the connections between brain cells, resulting in cognitive impairments in the prefrontal cortex of mice.

The use of trauma-informed practices has been widespread before the pandemic, but they’ll likely be even more important now that students are experiencing economic hardships and grieving the loss of family members and friends. Trauma-informed practices can be learned from schools like Fall-Hamilton Elementary in Nashville, Tennessee.

Teacher’s Guide to Preparing

It is undeniable that many students will be behind in their studies when schools reopen after the summer holidays, when compared to a typical school year in the past. Therefore, teachers must keep a close eye on them, not only in terms of academics, but also in terms of emotional well-being. While some students may be all set and ready to start the new school year with little to no difficulty, others will still be recovering from the pandemic and dealing with grief, trauma, and anxiety.

When the new school year begins, teachers should aim to prioritize the following strategies:

Relationships should be your first priority. Students may not be able to arrive to school ready to learn due to their anxiety and fear about the pandemic. By creating a supportive and safe learning environment, teachers can protect students against the negative effects of trauma. Fall semester calls for strategies that center around relationship-building, including meeting with students in the morning and regular check-ins with students.

Diagnostic testing should be strengthened. Students’ learning will be more variable than what is normally expected of them in a typical school year. Exit tickets and quizzes are low-stake assessments that can be used by teachers to determine if extra help is needed, how much time should be spent reviewing material collected last year, and what new topics can be addressed.

Provide differentiated instruction – especially to vulnerable students. The abrupt transition to online learning has left schools little time to plan for how to meet the needs of each student — more than a quarter of parents report that their child’s school is not providing resources for students with disabilities, and a quarter say their children cannot get materials in their own language. Taking stock of students’ knowledge and skills, then providing them with options, connecting the curriculum to their interests, and giving them multiple opportunities to demonstrate their learning can help educators make sure students on the margins get the support they need.

Moiz

My name is Moiz and I am the founder/owner of M-Z ACADEMY! I like to make videos about computer programming, technology, art as well as math! I also love to write articles on interesting topics!

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