The “Learning Loss” Pandemic

“Learning Loss” has grown to pandemic proportions, devastating the lives of millions of young people, particularly here in the United States.  

Worse yet, “Learning Loss” is mutating, and today an astounding 16 different and uniquely challenging manifestations have been identified.  To save their students, our teachers will need to acquire a specific skill set that will enable them to identify, diagnose, and treat this dizzying array of “Learning Loss.”  

Not only are there 16 varieties; there are also degrees of “Learning Loss.”  Unfortunately, some so-called experts rate “Learning Loss” as First Degree, Second Degree, and Third Degree without specifying whether they are using the BURN scale or the MURDER scale. That’s confusing because, while a First Degree Burn is mild, First Degree Murder is the most extreme charge.  Similarly, a Third Degree Burn is life-threatening, while Third Degree Murder is the least serious murder charge (though the victim probably doesn’t care about the distinction).  

Amidst all this confusion, there is good news: Teachers can be trained to recognize and treat “Learning Loss.”  This must be our nation’s first priority in the battle against “Learning Loss.”   As in the fight against COVID-19, we must first inoculate schooling’s front-line workers, the teachers.  

Fortunately for America’s students, the educational equivalent of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines is now available for teachers.  A wonderful new video series demonstrates how to undo the damage done by “Learning Loss.”  With their practical content and easy-to-follow procedures, these videos put the joy back into teaching….and enable teachers to rescue our children.

In these commercially available but non-profit training videos, “Learning Loss” is categorized as ‘Serious,’ ‘Moderate,’ or ‘Mild.’  No confusion there….unlike some profit-seeking competitors.

The traditional standardized test–a blunt instrument–simply cannot be trusted to pick up either “Literal Learning Loss” or the more subtle “Latent Learning Loss.”  What’s needed is the specific but teachable skill of ‘Listening for Learning Loss.”  With the help of this remarkable video series, a competent professional can master these techniques in a matter of days. 

Full disclosure:  I am the creator and host of the trademarked, patented video series, “Learning Loss Lessons.”  Those who purchase it will learn about the 16 varieties of “Learning Loss” as well as two important general skills, “Labelling Learning Loss,” and “Limiting Learning Loss.” 

The specific forms of “Learning Loss” covered in the series include two language arts deficits, “Literary Learning Loss” and “Lyrical Learning Loss” and four that are specific to the realm of mathematics and scientific reasoning: “Logarithmic Learning Loss,” “Logical Learning Loss,” “Linear Learning Loss,” and “Literal Learning Loss.”

My ground-breaking series also identifies subtle forms of “Learning Loss” that are related to the increasingly important realm of social and emotional skills, including “Listless (or Lethargic) Learning Loss,” “Lukewarm Learning Loss,” “Laconic Learning Loss,” “Likeable Learning Loss,“Lapsed Learning Loss,” and (most difficult to overcome) ‘Lunchroom Learning Loss.”

Once teachers have completed watching the videos and mastering the prescribed techniques, they will feel confident when meeting with concerned parents.  Soon they will be having conversations like the following, recorded recently in Washington, DC: 

TEACHER: “Mr. and Mrs. Petrillo, your son, Chester, suffers from moderate “Literary Learning Loss” and mild “Longitudinal Learning Loss.” 

PARENTS: “Thank heaven you have been able to diagnose Chester’s problem.  We knew something was wrong but have been at our wit’s end.  What can you do for him?

TEACHER:  “Fortunately for Chester, the path to a complete recovery is straightforward.  First, a dose of  what I call “Dynamic Rejection of Individual Learning Loss,” or D.R.I.L.L.  That will be followed by “Kicking Individual Learning Loss,” or K.I.L.L.  With enough D.R.I.L.L. and K.I.L.L., Chester will be inoculated against “Learning Loss,” and soon he will be experiencing school as he did in the good old days.”

PARENTS: “Thank you so much.  This is such a relief.”

Imagine how reassuring this will be for teachers, administrators, School Board members, and everyone else who wants schools to keep doing things the way they’ve always done them.

The penultimate video in the series shows teachers and other professionals how to create and celebrate a “League of Learning Leaders,” its membership consisting of students who, thanks to extensive D.R.I.L.L. and K.I.L.L., have overcome their deficits.  

School Districts may use funds from the COVID-19 Relief Act to pay for this vital professional development training for their teachers.  And attorneys for Boards of Education will be pleased to learn that the vital issue of “Limiting Learning Loss Liability” is covered in detail.  

Some argue that education’s first priority ought to be more counselors to counter the mental health damages done by a year without peers and countless hours staring at screens, but I believe schools should first purchase these valuable videos for their teachers.  If there’s money left over, then by all means get extra services for the kids. 

Here’s some pricing information about my valuable series.  

The final video in the series, “Lucrative Learning Loss,” is largely autobiographical.

5 thoughts on “The “Learning Loss” Pandemic

  1. John, having listened to and learned from families throughout the US – from California to Mass, I think that the last year has been terrible for many youngsters. Some have done well with on line learning (as some did before the pandemic).
    You and I agree that what students need now is NOT, as you describe it “DRILL and KILL” However, I think it’s appropriate to recognize and try to take constructive actions to help the many youngsters who have suffered significantly.

    Below is a brief statement from a parent in San Diego. She mixes in the reactions of a youngster she knows very well, with concerns about the person who has been nominated to be Deputy Sec, US Dept of Education. that is a separate issue. But I think this parent, who has requested that her name not be used, describes what has happened with some youngsters.

    What would you suggest be done?


    This is a true story provided by a close friend, but keeping their identity anonymous, we are calling her daughter “Sela.” Sela was a star student and athlete. She tested Seminar in elementary school (i.e. 99.9% percentile on the Gifted & Talented (GATE) test, and she started taking high school math and language classes in middle school. By the time she was a Sophomore in high school, she played 2 varsity sports had a 3.7 GPA and received honor roll mention by the school. However after Cindy Marten and her administration shut down the schools, she lost all the high school activities that made her happy (sports and clubs), and she was left struggling to manage all the extra time on her hands, but not being able to share it with her friends. She started to get unmotivated, doing the bare minimum of schoolwork to get by. She took an AP test but did not pass because she was not adequately prepared with no in-school teacher and peer preparation.

    By the fall, after SDUSD schools continued to be closed, she had difficult classes and grades started to drop. Her parents started her in therapy but it took a long time for them (on zoom) for them to get a diagnosis. She procrastinated but pulled off mediocre grades, but with easier classes in 2nd quarter, her grades dropped even more. She was unmotivated and immobilized from doing schoolwork. Finally in 2021 she got the diagnosis of major depressive disorder with anxiety distress. She ended up with a D that week. Her parents got her on anti-depressants, but the effects from the medication take months. Meanwhile the damage has been done to her academic records.

    Depression caused anger; she rebelled from her parents because they, for the first time in her 17 years, had to be involved to such a significant level of detail with her daily academic schedule. Besides waking her up and continuing to remove her distractions and keep her awake, they gave her advice on time management but listening to them was problematic. Missing her friends, she would see them in person (risking Covid-19) or chat with them during zoom class, a welcome distraction to the monotony and her unhappiness. Depression immobilized her from doing work, so she felt bad about herself, get ‘nagged,’ and then distract herself more in order to feel better. Resistant and depressed, this pattern involved distractions like anime, TV and gaming. Though these would sometimes be removed from her, she would get more withdrawn and resentful; (her relationship with her parents had deteriorated badly over the year, and their marriage was also rocky.) Now this former honor roll student has Fs in all of her 3rd quarter classes.

    The parents literally bent over backwards trying to help her—often calling the school’s: counselor, psychologist, nurse, administrators, intervention specialist, teachers and more. They barked up every tree to get her help with intervention and time management, and for teachers to work with her privately, and more, but they were told that their depressed daughter needed to do the work of reaching out to them—but only during 20 minute windows of office hour time sessions. The parents received responses from administrators that were basically “pass the buck,” or they would focus on protecting their own job reputation—saying “I have given you my office hours, so I’m doing my job.” Under Cindy Marten’s MOU with the union, teachers and administrators did have very little responsibility, so perhaps there WAS nothing they could do. An IEP or section 504 options, were given, but they were not recommendable because they take months to take effect and by then the school year would be over, with the damage already having been done to this child.

    An SST (teacher, admin and student discussion) meeting was planned and the counselor invited a huge number of people, which was mortifying and embarrassing to the student’s privacy. The intervention specialist refused to help the student, saying that she was “doing OK” (with all Fs), presumably because the student did show up to zoom ‘class’ every day—whereas some kids with Fs would not even log on. It was THOSE students only (not her) that received intervention, presumably because they did not bring in the money (average daily attendance funding.) Public education should be for everyone and not dictated by which kids bring in the most funding, but apparently Cindy Marten thought otherwise.

    The SDUSD hand-picked names of students who were failing to be able to receive appointment-based in-school tutoring and in-school learning labs,. With all Fs, she still did not make this privileged list, though she wanted badly to see her people and the school environment. Still stuck at home, she wanted to play sports that will soon start back up, but with her current failing grades, this may not be an option for her. This will likely worsen her depression, but administrators don’t help—just continuing to tell her to reach out to them during office hours, an unrealistic expectation for a depressed person.

    Everyone at the school thought they were doing something, when in fact, other than the school psychologist providing therapist referrals, they were doing NOTHING to support this young lady. They have single-handedly ruined a promising child’s future opportunities, for current educational success, for potential admission to a 4-year university, for socialization through sports and extra-curricular activities, and for general happiness in high school. The CDC says that youth only very rarely contract Covid-19, and that kids are very rarely transmitters. Despite that, Cindy Marten and the SDEA chose to keep schools closed, except for a handful of part-days at the tail end of the school year. Worse than that, she gave no directive to administrators, counselors, teachers and other support professionals directives or permission to find ways support ALL students who were struggling during distance learning. This child slipped through the cracks, and her future is compromised. Please don’t all of our nation’s children slip through the cracks, under the expanded leadership of Cindy Marten.


  2. I love your nod to the Bozos at Fordham! April 1, 2021…WOW!….the whole year (since March 2020) has seemed like one big April Fools joke.


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