The COVID-19 pandemic left an indelible mark on every facet of society, and education is no exception. From abrupt shifts to remote learning to disruptions in traditional educational processes, the pandemic significantly impacted student outcomes across the globe.

These disruptions were not limited to remote learning challenges. They also exposed and intensified existing issues in education, such as scheduling, standards, assessments and various other processes fundamental to effective learning.

Graduates of Eastern Michigan University’s online Master of Arts (M.A.) in Curriculum and Instruction (C&I) with a concentration in Instructional Leadership program have the skills to learn from the pandemic’s educational setbacks and implement effective, modern learning strategies.

How Did the Pandemic Disrupt Learning?

According to a report by Brookings, the repercussions have been particularly severe, as “[a]verage fall 2021 math test scores in grades 3-8 were 0.20-0.27 standard deviations (SDs) lower relative to same-grade peers in fall 2019, while reading test scores were 0.09-0.18 SDs lower.” Even more alarming is the growing test-score gap between students in low-poverty and high-poverty elementary schools, which expanded by approximately 20% in math and 15% in reading during the 2020-21 school year.

The same study found that graduation rates didn’t change significantly, likely due to states relaxing their graduation standards. However, NPR notes that “entry rates for recent high school grads at four-year colleges dipped 6%, and a worrying 16% at two-year colleges.”

What Existing Issues Did the Pandemic Expose or Intensify?

The results of the findings are undeniably alarming, especially considering the efforts of teachers and students to maintain a semblance of normality in their daily education schedules. It might be tempting to dismiss these students as a “lost generation,” but the need for a strategic response to this educational crisis is paramount.

Quoted in an Edutopia article, Reconnect author Doug Lemov “suggests that many of the issues we link to the pandemic actually precede it, and probably arise, at least partly, from the detrimental effects of smartphones and social media use on mental health, trust in institutions like government and school, and our sense of social connectedness.” Lemov suggests we pay more attention to the emotional side and “rewire” the school environments to reconnect students with their studies, themselves and each other.

What Can Teachers Do to Improve Declining Outcomes?

“I don’t know of a single school leader who doesn’t think that kids came back from the pandemic different,” notes Lemov. “They appear to have shorter attention spans, they struggle in social interactions with peers, they have more behavioral issues, and they struggle to persist with tasks.”

He suggests fostering a sense of belonging in the classroom through social and emotional learning (SEL) strategies. However, he also notes the importance of sifting through various SEL techniques, urging teachers to determine the right fit for their students.

Since the pandemic was unprecedented and no educator or student had experienced it before, many educators felt and still feel alone in their efforts. That’s why uniting with like-minded teachers facing similar problems or pursuing further education is a good idea.

Improve Learning Outcomes With an Advanced C&I in Instructional Leadership Degree

Advanced education programs that focus on curriculum and instruction play a crucial role in equipping educators with the skills and knowledge necessary to address these challenges. Eastern Michigan University’s online M.A. in Curriculum and Instruction – Leadership program equips educators not only with tools to adapt their instructional methods to the evolving needs of students but also with tools to help peers.

The curriculum focuses on school culture transformation, culturally responsive classrooms and the overall environment’s critical role in shaping student experiences. By fostering an understanding of the multifaceted issues faced by learners and adapting to effects of the pandemic, program graduates are able to implement targeted interventions that can lead to meaningful improvements in student outcomes.

Learn more about Eastern Michigan University’s online Master of Arts in Curriculum and Instruction with a concentration in Instructional Leadership program.