Strategies to Help Your Child Finish the Semester Strong, Despite Learning Loss

Start by talking frankly with your child about learning loss, then devise a plan, suggest the experts at Academic Approach.

As the calendar year winds down, students begin to anticipate the end of the first semester of school. Your child may be completing a capstone project or preparing for a final exam — and may face greater challenges this year due to the effects of pandemic-related learning loss.

To finish the first semester on a high note and start the second semester strong, parents should help their child address any existing gaps in their knowledge. While the news headlines continue to share data regarding pandemic learning loss, it’s time for parents to consider what that means to their child individually, says Andrew Ferguson, Director of Client Services at Academic Approach, a Chicago-based tutoring and test-prep company.

“We hear a lot of stories about teachers who went above and beyond and about students who really did the best they could,” Ferguson affirms. “But the numbers, particularly the data surrounding learning loss in math, really say we should address this issue. In math, skills build on what students learned in the previous year, so when you have a gap, it’s very hard to make up.”

In some cases, students are very open about the knowledge they are missing, says Carla Pedersen, Regional Director at Academic Approach.

“Sometimes a student’s grades are fine, but the student isn’t confident. They’re not really ahead in their work or as excited about it as they once were. They’re missing the deep understanding, so maybe they’re not taking the advanced classes they used to be attracted to,” Pedersen says.

Critical stage for filling learning gaps

This year’s 11th-grade students are preparing to take the SAT and ACT, and they’re also in the midst of what’s often considered the most difficult high school year. “They’re the No.1 age group we work with for SAT and ACT prep and many were studying geometry when they were doing remote learning,” says Ferguson. “When they struggle, they are quick to say ‘I had that during COVID. I didn’t learn it that well.’”

If their grades didn’t reflect their lack of understanding, that’s not necessarily surprising. “In some cases, students didn’t get to the full breadth of the curriculum, the full rigor,” Pedersen says.

Some students may be able to self-correct effectively, but others will need concentrated help. “For younger kids who are in that learning-how-to-learn phase and learning how to become a strong student, any educational gaps will be harder to overcome,” Ferguson explains.

Where did your child excel?

There are ways for parents to help fill in any gaps in their child’s learning loss and help them start the second semester with confidence.

Start by figuring out where your child is academically, and take time to focus on what they did well during the pandemic and in the months since they returned to the classroom, Ferguson suggests.

“Talk with your child and find out from them how they feel. Not every kid will talk openly, but make certain that you give them the space to talk,” he says. “Then talk to your child’s teachers and take advantage of every opportunity they offer to help fill in missed learning.”

If your child came away from pandemic learning disruption with more resilience, celebrate that and build on it.

“Students may be more introspective about learning than in years past. Not every student is struggling, and some may have built autonomy sooner than they would have otherwise. They may have developed effective ways to stay on top of schoolwork and have learned how to advocate for support. There are potential wins there,” Pedersen says.

Pedersen encourages taking a careful look at ways students approached learning that were effective, including any resources that may have helped, then applying these methods to other topics and content areas, if possible. “It’s about learning how to practice effectively and discovering what kind of feedback schedule you need, then repeating that cycle,” she says.

Most importantly, banish any stigma you might have about learning loss. “The whole country experienced this, and other countries as well,” Pedersen says. “It’s something we need to acknowledge and work through. There are legitimate reasons students struggle and have gaps and now is the time to go toward support with an open mindset.”

Individualized support can help

Students who are college-bound need to build a holistic academic portrait that includes strong grades and curriculum choices that demonstrate rigor. When colleges and universities state that they are test-optional, strong grades become an even more important piece of the puzzle, says Pedersen.

“High academic performance indicates that a student is set up for more challenging work when they get into college and have more autonomy. The more you can take control of this with the guardrails of support in high school, the more prepared you will be for your applications and college-level coursework,” she says.

In other words, Ferguson says, one Saturday morning spent taking a standardized test doesn’t replace the picture that four years of school will paint of your student.

In addition to taking advantage of additional support at school, consider academic tutoring because it provides one-on-one support that helps students build knowledge, fill gaps and work more confidently in the classroom.

“Tutoring helps you learn about yourself as a student as well,” Pedersen says. “The best academic tutoring helps build skills toward autonomy. Students learn about why they make mistakes. They figure out which steps in their thought processes are leading them astray. Sometimes it’s building an understanding about where you need to pause and retrain yourself to take a different approach.”

Content sponsored by Academic Approach. Learn more at

Claire Charlton
Claire Charlton
An enthusiastic storyteller, Claire Charlton focuses on delivering top client service as a content editor for Chicago Parent. In her 20+ years of experience, she has written extensively on a variety of topics and is keen on new tech and podcast hosting. Claire has two grown kids and loves to read, run, camp, cycle and travel.


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