Core curriculum catch-up and pandemic learning loss

Among the many costs associated with our approach to COVID-19 has been massive “learning loss” for students. Nicole Asbury at The Washington Post highlights what has happened in the Washington, DC area:

In the District, researchers found that students in third through eighth grade fell behind during the first year of the pandemic by about five to six months in language arts and mathematics, compared with test results from 2018-2019, before the pandemic began. Montgomery County — Maryland’s largest school district, with about 160,000 students — similarly found learning gaps in a study it released in the fall. Eighty-two percent of its second-graders, for example, were meeting literacy readiness measures during the 2018-2019 school year. But at the beginning of the 2021-2022 school year, about 47.5 percent were meeting those measures. The numbers also declined for math. In Virginia, 2020-2021 results show that 69 percent of students passed their reading exams, 54 percent passed math and 59 percent passed science. Those passing rates were a drop from the 2018-2019 school year, when 78 percent of students passed reading, 82 percent passed math and 81 percent passed science. (The test was not given for the 2019-2020 school year.)

The scores were lower among the school districts’ most vulnerable students.

Youth Leadership Foundation (YLF) was founded in 1997 to build character among the youth of Washington, DC, and has stepped in alongside others to serve children who have been hurt by the learning gaps and disengagement caused by our recent public policy decisions:

The Youth Leadership Foundation’s summer program teaches core curriculums — such as math, English, science and social studies — and extracurriculars — such as sports and character development — over five weeks. Most of the students’ families learn about the program through word of mouth, because the foundation has partnerships with schools for after-school programs, too. The program also offers one-on-one mentoring.

“The mentorship is the bread and butter of YLF,” said Janaiha Bennett, the foundation’s executive director. “We realize the importance of the individual — that everyone’s story is different, everyone’s needs are different.”

For Kingston Kershaw, a rising fourth-grader at Tyler Elementary in the District, he said he’s excited to be back in the classroom in person, because he has always loved learning. He felt trapped while virtually attending school, because he was never able to go anywhere. Plus, as much as he loves his brother, the two would sometimes get tired of each other, he said after his one-on-one mentoring session at one of the campuses for the Youth Leadership Foundation’s summer program.

The impact of YLF over so many years has been huge. I’ve served on the board for the past few years and have seen firsthand the energy and commitment of YLF’s team and volunteers. A snapshot of YLF’s impact:

YLF students outperform their District area peers in educational trajectory and across measures of future leadership. Of the 4,000 YLF alums, 97% have graduated high school (compared to 60% of area peers), and roughly 80% have continued their education beyond high school at university, community college or trade school (compared to 48%).

I’ll be running in September for YLF’s Race for DC Kids. If you have the capacity to contribute to YLF or to sponsor YLF’s Race for DC Kids, you can do that here.