Nordengren, of NWEA, advises teachers to take the time to understand each child’s abilities and be sure not to waste precious time reteaching concepts they have already mastered or skipping ahead to topics for which they are unprepared.
He said parents can help, too, by incorporating math in their everyday life — grocery store check-out lines can provide a great opportunity to consider addition, subtraction, percentages and other, more complex topics — and by not speaking negatively about the subject in front of their children.
“If you have a parent that says, ‘I’m not a math person,’ or ‘We are not math people,’ that will put that deficit mindset into a kid’s brain,” Nordengren said.
“If [students are] dedicated to it and they’re able to connect that with their own goals, it is definitely possible to make really impressive learning in a short amount of time,” said Nordengren.
More broadly, some say there’s a danger in simply assuming that particular kids have lost ground academically because of their race or family income. That’s because if schools overestimate students’ learning loss, they may fail to give them grade-level work, pushing them even further behind, Chase Nordengren, a senior research scientist with NWEA, told Vox. “Assumptions are really a threat to equity, because they limit the kinds of experiences that students have access to.”
Even as we acknowledge inequities in access, Nordengren said, it’s important to “understand that every student is different, and when we come back this fall, every student’s individual level of proficiency is going to need to be understood really well.”
“[It’s important] to get in with students and understand what they now know and can do and begin to chart out a path for individual students for how they can begin to recover whenever learning might have been lost during this period,” said Chase Nordengren, a research scientist with the Portland, Ore.,-based education assessment group NWEA.
The amount of learning loss over the past year has not been as significant as researchers anticipated, according to Mr. Nordengren, who credits teachers for doing “extraordinary things with the tools and the circumstances they’ve been given.”
“Even the best student in class can set a mastery goal because they can always get better at doing something.”
Mastery goals also help lessen the anxiety, as you’re competing with yourself, rather than competing with others. It creates a more comfortable environment. Finally, he said that mastery goals are most effective because they lend themselves naturally to the content itself.
“When you’re engaged in the process of thinking about how to get better at something, you’re naturally thinking about that thing. And so mastery goals provide the benefit of the meta-cognition, the thinking about thinking, that we know is really integral to learning anything with high degree of success,” Nordengren said.