While the COVID-19 pandemic caused millions of students to have their education disrupted during the 2020-2021 school year, teachers have since reported finding limited strategies that could be helpful in mitigating learning loss, the Federal government’s top watchdog agency said in a new report.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) was tasked with reporting on its ongoing COVID-19 monitoring and oversight efforts as designated by the CARES Act that provided pandemic relief. In the first of a series of reports, GAO looked at learning obstacles for the 2020-2021 school year, and strategies to mitigate learning loss.

GAO conducted a survey for its report on K-12 public school teachers nationwide, and found that:

  • 60 percent of virtual learning teachers said their students had more difficulty understanding lessons;
  • 61 percent of all teachers had more students who experienced emotional distress;
  • 85 percent of in-person teachers said live instruction – either fully or partially in-person – helped students; and
  • Fewer than 40 percent of teachers thought asynchronous learning helped a majority of their students.

“While teachers used numerous strategies to mitigate learning loss, and many were helpful for particular situations or student groups, only a few helped at least half of their students, according to our survey estimates,” wrote GAO. “For the strategies that were helpful to fewer students, most were used infrequently, except for one – asynchronous instruction.”

Live instruction and technology for learning activities or assignments and feedback were the two learning strategies that the surveyed teachers felt were helpful in mitigating learning loss.

“Synchronous instruction was the most helpful in my classroom because I could see and respond to student needs and questions as they were developing,” one teacher said in the report.

“One thing that I thought they did well – it was more the school, not necessarily the teacher even though she did make the assignments – is they used a platform … So, my child was able to work at a pace higher than what she normally would have been able to do in a general education setting,” said one parent in the report.

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Jordan Smith
Jordan Smith
Jordan Smith is MeriTalk SLG's Staff Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.