In recent weeks, news outlets and social media have been filled with depressing stories about “declines” in student achievement, in both reading and math. These reported downturns were not observed in terms of student problem-solving or thought processes, but on standardized test scores.

This measured dip in performance, according to the stories, can be attributed to the attention-grabbing phenomenon called “learning loss,” a post-pandemic term that has become common parlance in educational circles.

Learning loss is being framed as a “generational emergency,” leading to a collective wringing of hands, the organization of sudden emergency meetings and reactionary reallocation of funds.

But what learning did students actually lose?

It is inconceivable to me that students simply stopped learning during the pandemic’s lengthy societal upset. Whether we are trying to help our families navigate stressful challenges or working through a math book, we are all learning all of the time.

We do know that the pandemic had a devastating impact on students and families, especially low-income families, and schools serving Black and Latinx students, measurably worsening inequities and exacerbating racial injustice. A 2021 study showed that the pandemic disproportionately impacted Black students, prompting a heightened distrust of education.

And there is every reason to expect disruptions in student learning post pandemic. But teachers were heroic during the pandemic, and data shows that students continued to strive toward meaningful learning, even with many forms of chaos erupting all around them.

For example, results from the 2020-21 National Speak Up Project, which collected data from more than 50,000 K-12 students, teachers and administrators, found that the percentages of students who said they were interested in their schoolwork and and engaged in school were roughly the same whether they were learning in person, online or in a hybrid version.

Read the full article about the focus on learning loss by Jo Boaler at The Hechinger Report.