The phrase “learning loss” has become as widespread as “you’re on mute” in the era of the COVID-19 pandemic. Commentators, politicians, parents, research firms, educational technology organizations and policymakers have decried how remote and hybrid learning during the pandemic caused students to fall further and further behind educationally.

These same individuals and organizations have promoted “solutions,” such as getting students back in school as fast as possible, extending summer school, increasing the amount of time spent in school during the year and relying on parents to expand learning opportunities. Even President Biden’s American Rescue Plan earmarked funding for summer enrichment and after-school programs to aid learning recovery. Many of these solutions are not only lacking in evidence, but also they leave out the most important influence on student learning—the teacher.

Decades of research have confirmed that teacher quality is “the most influential factor in students’ educational outcomes,” according to one study on the subject. Put simply, the teacher is the most important factor in how well a student does in school. Highly-qualified teachers influence student success both short and long term, and as teachers gain more years of experience, they are more likely to positively influence student outcomes beyond academic achievement, including reducing absences and disciplinary offenses.

The loss of teachers to the profession has been exacerbated by the shift to emergency remote teaching during the COVID-19 pandemic, as teachers who were already stretched to their limits were faced with impossible work situations. Some doubled their workload by teaching in-person and remote students simultaneously with no extra support, while others had to determine whether losing their life to the COVID-19 virus was worth the risk of continuing to teach. The “An Anonymous Teacher Speaks” Padlet by shea martin, in which educators freely share their concerns without retribution, is fraught with examples of teachers feeling burned out, stressed out, undervalued, overworked and pushed to the brink of no return.

Read the full article about the value of educators by Torrey Trust at EdSurge.