Learning Loss: A Problem of the Future

Learning Loss: A Problem of the Future

Editorial: LAUSD’s efforts to address learning loss should inspire hope, not chaos and frustration

The school year is almost finished, and once again, Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) students across classrooms and school sites are about to begin the long, grueling journey back to the classroom.

This journey of learning is fraught with both excitement and anxiety. Along the way, students will learn many new subjects ranging from the basics of reading to the art of algebra—new concepts, new problems, and the promise of a different approach to a series of old ones.

But for a small, but important number of our students, this learning will also be marred by learning loss or, as we like to call it, learning difficulty. Learning loss, in our view, is a serious challenge affecting too many children.

What is so troubling about learning loss is that, while it can be caused by many factors, including learning disabilities, it is typically thought of as a single construct, and the definition of learning loss is very broad. But to our ears, the word means something very different.

In our view, learning loss is the loss of the ability that comes with the capacity to learn something. In other words: If a child is experiencing learning loss, they cannot learn new things or acquire new skills at the levels and rates associated with typical children their age.

That is what makes the issue of learning loss so serious and difficult to address. The problem is so huge that many states, as well as the federal government, have set up an interagency task force to address the problem. The task force was recently reconstituted as the Learning Loss Task Force Advisory Committee, and is due to report to the government by May 2015.

While the report may have the potential to lead to a variety of solutions, the issue of learning loss is a complex and multifaceted problem that deserves to be addressed in a comprehensive way.

It should be recognized that learning loss is not a disease of one’s own; it is more of a malady of society: an epidemic that affects our children. What is the root cause of learning loss? Where is the flaw in modern society, and the way it treats our children? Is it poverty, or is it more complex? If it’s the latter, how do we address the root of our problem, and how do we move forward?

This task force needs to look at the problem of learning loss from

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