A recent report sheds light on the adverse effect of COVID-19 school disruptions on K-12 learning. Titled, “How Kids Are Performing: Tracking the Impact of COVID-19 on Reading and Mathematics Achievement,” the report was released by a leading pre-K–12 education technology leader, Renaissance.

It considers student assessments from all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The results total over 5 million student assessments. The report touches upon all the aspects of learning issues and gaps and seeks to guide educators as they address learning gaps.

Among its key findings, it shows that while reading performance has been average, math achievement has been more affected by these disruptions. Overall, students will need anything between 7-12 weeks to catch up on their subjects. Parents are naturally concerned about academic achievement. Many are worried about the long-term effects on their child's education.

Some student groups, like Black, Hispanic, and Native American students, were more affected by learning disruptions than others. Students from high poverty populations and rural areas have been negatively affected as well. There have been speculations about the effects of pandemic-related closures on student achievement for some time now.

The report shows that while the pandemic has affected high-performing students, too, the effect is not devastating. For low-performing students, however, results have not improved at all.

According to a German study, researchers found that school closures have reduced the average learning time by about half. It was even larger for low-achieving students, who spent more time on social media and gaming than studying. For low-achieving students, school closures have meant a lack of usual teacher support. Remote learning requires a lot of independent studies and self-regulated learning. Students need to understand academic content without the help of trained educators, which can be a challenge for low-achieving students.

Inequalities have existed in the education system before COVID-19; the pandemic just made it worse. With the prospect of most schools remaining disrupted throughout periods of the 2020-21 school year, the learning gap will only increase. Educators and policymakers will need to address the issue and set in motion to combat the same. They will need to identify students who are struggling and provide them with extra support.

A report by the consulting firm McKinsey & Co. states that the academic achievement gaps could have a more lasting impact. We may see long-term harm to individuals and society, along with higher dropout rates. Unless there are urgent interventions and support for the most vulnerable students, we may expect greater income disparities, higher crime rates, and low economic growth.

One such support that is being highly endorsed by educators worldwide is tutoring. Tutoring is an effective tool that helps students stay ahead in normal times. During the pandemic, it has allowed students to cope with the pressure of online learning and combat the growing COVID-19 learning loss.

Admittedly, most students have had to opt for virtual tutoring, but that has produced the same benefits as in-person tutoring. Tutors have played a mentoring role, which has helped increase well-being, goals, and social and emotional skills in students.

Here, too, we must note that affluent students have benefitted more than their low-income counterparts. To combat this, suffering districts need to direct tutoring resources to students with the highest chance of falling behind. They must ask for increased funding to subsidize tutoring programs and help disadvantaged students make up for learning losses.

Amid the growing demand for tutoring, there are talks of a focused and centralized tutoring market. Khan Academy's new initiative leads in this regard as a model to democratize access. It would enable parents and students to customize their tutoring services and target particular areas of study. It aims to create an online marketplace that will offer free virtual tutoring on specific topics for all students. This would go a long way to bridge the gap in tutoring help that students get today and create an equal platform of learning for all.