An inability to mastery skills at their current grade level due to an inability to consolidate new skills or have built-in deficits from previous grades, compounded by the 18 month gap in regular in-class educational delivery and a variable quality level of virtual screen-based learning.
Each grade level from Kindergarten to grade 12 has specific curriculum in skills and knowledge that are delivered as routine. Students succeed as they meet mastery expectations of these skills. The next grade platform is based on the assumption of this mastery and the teachers proceed to teach the curriculum of the next grade from that point.
These new concepts and skills are generally taught over the fall and winter semesters and consolidated in the third semester. Students who do not take part in education and cognitive activities over the summer break, experience what is called the ‘summer slide’, where they lose two to three months of the previous grade’s skills as they start the first semester of the next grade.
Most students catch up with a quick review but students with learning differences who are slow to consolidate new skills and have built-in deficits from previous grades, struggle to achieve the expected mastery. They develop gaps in basic steps and structure that continue to haunt them throughout school and beyond. This year the problem is exacerbated since many students have not learned the skill in the first place.
For almost 18 months, regular routine educational delivery of learning may not have taken place, and mastery of virtual screen-based learning has been variable, so that it is not clear whether the skills of the previous grade are at mastery before the next grade level curriculum is taught.
When students present themselves with skills as much as 1.5 – 2 years behind the platform they need to master the skills of their next grade, a serious education delivery challenge will occur to in-class based learning, and teachers in every classroom so affected will face difficulties they have not previously seen or have been trained to address.
In addition to educational factors, students have missed close emotional and social experiences with their classmates, cognitive development in thinking, routine practice in focus and attention, and after school extracurricular activities in sports and the arts. This too produces profound effects whose scope is still unknown as this cohort returns to school. Of course, the effect will be variable and the whole range of outcomes can be expected. These too are still unknown.
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound effect on the education and learning mastery of children, youth and young adults. Scientists and educators are raising the alarm that for some learners the deficit in skills and knowledge that occurred during the COVID-19 in-class disruption of education could become a life-lasting problem.