Supporting Our Most Vulnerable Students: Addressing COVID-19 Learning Loss

June 11, 2020 Sarah Williamson By Sarah Williamson
Student looking at computer. Working on his assesments.

Summer slide is a common issue in education. What’s not fully known is the impact summer slide will have in the fall when compounded by learning loss this spring.  In our eleventh episode of Opportunity Thrives, a podcast committed to better supporting the needs of today’s secondary students, we discuss the potential for a large number of students to fall behind or develop significant gaps in their learning as a result of COVID-19.

In this episode, we explore potential solutions for learning loss, available resources and how districts are planning to support student learning this fall.  

Our guest, Jean Sharp, has more than 25 years of leadership and management experience in the education and software publishing industries. Her expertise includes product development, curriculum strategy, instructional design and development, project management and effective implementations for digital learning solutions. Among her credits are numerous award-winning educational software products published for both school and consumer markets. Jean currently currently serves as a board member for the Digital Learning Collaborative.

Jean shares how her passion for ensuring students have an opportunity to learn has evolved from her early work as a teacher. Serving the needs of non-traditional students through alternative education programs, she worked with vulnerable students – most who were credit deficient and at risk of not graduating. Many had family issues that pulled them into adult responsibilities well before they were ready. Some had to work to support themselves or their families. Others made poor choices, not always understanding the consequences. These students arrived in alternative education programs for a variety of reasons and with significant needs.

Her experience with these students has made Jean an advocate for creating a culture of learning that offers a second chance to students who missed out on educational opportunities previously — often through no fault of their own. We discuss how districts can help support these vulnerable students, particularly as remote learning may continue to evolve this fall.

There’s an old adage that Jean firmly believes: “Students don’t care how much we know until they know how much we care.” She shares her advice for fostering a culture of learning that helps students feel heard so that they know we truly care about their progress and meeting their goals. This is incredibly important for supporting those students who are the hardest to reach.

Jean’s reassuring wisdom affirms that when we do welcome students back to school, we we must recommit to making school a place where students are welcomed and acknowledged; where learning is focused and relevant; where instructional approaches consider the specific needs of each student; and where we encourage students and prepare them for what’s next.

To listen to the full podcast or any of our other episodes, visit:



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