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University of Maryland to train educators to curb learning loss

Students get on a bus in Baltimore City in late July.
Kristen Mosbrucker
Students get on a bus in Baltimore City in late July.

The average student over the summer break is likely to forget between 17% and 34% of what they learned during the school year, according to a study by the Northwest Evaluation Association.

To help local students combat the learning loss this year researchers at the University of Maryland are hosting a training for school leaders in mid-August.

“There's a complexity of that learning loss and learning recovery. There is no one simple solution,” said Doug Anthony, senior fellow and director of education and doctoral programs at the University of Maryland.

Learning loss is most acute for low-income students and people of color often due to lack of access to summer enrichment programs.

The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the issue and widened achievement gaps as a result of almost two years of virtual-only learning.

The Center for Education Policy Research at Harvard University estimates that high-poverty areas will need to spend the majority of federal aid on academic recovery to help students recover from pandemic-related achievement losses.

The University of Maryland expects to host school leaders for a summer institute from Aug. 8 and 10 to discuss the concept and potential challenges in the upcoming school year.

It’s important for educators to have a “growth mindset” and “to have this kind of curiosity, humility and vulnerability around the work that you do when you're looking at improvement,” said Anthony.

He added that the process of improvement can be messy so educators must also be open to uncertainty.

Educators can still learn how to tackle the issue and increase academic improvement by using “improvement science,” according to the Center for Educational Innovation and Improvement at the University of Maryland.

The director of the center, Segun Eubanks said that the science of improvement is “a process of bringing together people who are closest to the toughest problems that we're trying to solve in education.”

He highlighted the importance of relationships with researchers and field experts. He said the partnerships will help “to identify the core problems of practice that are leading to the poor outcomes that we see.”

The concept of improvement science stems from the medical field and has been used to focus on healthcare improvement. The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, applied the concept to education.

Improvement science has six principles from being problem specific to being focused on individuals.

When it comes to problem-solving, educators tend to scale fast and fail big, Eubanks said. But that approach must change in order to see success and long-term improvement in education.

Educators often think about what intervention can be purchased or how to increase training when considering improvement, said Pamela Shetley, associate director of the school of leadership doctoral program at the University of Maryland.

“But that's only a form of ‘solutionitius’ and in fact, improvement science is quite the opposite,” Shetley said.

The goal of the framework is to empower school leaders to identify the root cause of problems, spend time understanding them, experimenting and learning from mistakes and not on finding immediate solutions.

Zshekinah Collier is WYPR’s 2022-2023 Report for America Corps Member, where she covers Education. @Zshekinahgf
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