When it comes to learning loss, don’t reinvent the wheel



As we head towards the last half of our second school year in a pandemic, there is no doubt that the impact of learning loss has exceeded all predictions. As reported by McKinsey,  students are behind an average of four months in reading and five months in math. Unfortunately, the pandemic widened preexisting opportunity and achievement gaps, hitting historically disadvantaged students hardest. In math, students in majority black schools ended the year with six months of unfinished learning; students in low-income schools with seven.  

Helping students catch up and keep up is a challenge many schools are just starting to tackle now that they’ve navigated the logistics of teaching and learning in a (hopefully) waning pandemic.  

Unfortunately, we are already seeing the best intentions and worst habits of problem-solving work their way into resolving student learning loss. Everyone wants to do something big and sweeping to ‘fix’ the issue.  

The truth is schools already have well-thought-out processes for supporting students who are a year or even two years behind in their studies. Multi-tiered systems of support, or MTSS, have been around in education for almost 20 years.  

MTSS is designed to identify students who need interventions and ensure they receive the combination of supports that will make them most successful. MTSS includes processes to continually check that the interventions are working. MTSS also includes identifying the social-emotional and behavioral needs of students while setting up the right supports. Effective MTSS considers the whole child. When implemented properly, MTSS is an amazing framework that ensures all students receive the right intervention services and supports for the best chance at college and career success.  

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