Educators Identify Learning Gaps due to COVID-19 in Horace Mann Study

Educators suggest narrower focus on grade-level standards, more paraprofessionals and social-emotional learning support to help students

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (March 30, 2021) - More than half of public K-12 educators say the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in a significant loss of both academic and social-emotional learning for students, according to a March 2021 Horace Mann Educators Corporation (NYSE:HMN) report.

The report, Closing the Learning Gap, shares insights from the March 2021 Horace Mann Voice of the Educator Study, which surveyed nearly 1,000 U.S. K-12 educators to gain insight into the educational challenges caused or exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Among the findings:

  • Over 97% of educators reported loss of learning by their students over the past year when compared with children in previous years.
  • A majority (57%) of educators estimated their students are behind by more than three months in their social-emotional learning progress.
  • When asked what the biggest obstacle to return to a “normal” education environment was, nearly half (47%) of educators cited a wider gap between academically struggling and high-performing students.

“For 75 years, Horace Mann has been dedicated to helping educators achieve lifelong financial success, driven by our desire to help those who are taking care of our children,” said Horace Mann President and CEO Marita Zuraitis. “That appreciation and respect has only deepened during the COVID-19 pandemic. Educators are working harder than ever to meet the needs of their students through an environment of constant change, and we are inspired by their enduring commitment to help each student reach their full potential.”

The good news for students is the 2021-2022 school year has strong potential to look more like a pre-pandemic learning environment. Teachers are eligible for COVID-19 vaccines in all 50 states. The Centers for Disease Control lessened social distancing requirements to three feet from six feet for students in most classroom settings, a development largely expected to spur more schools to re-open. Several manufacturers are testing their vaccines on children and expect to release clinical trial results over the summer.

With that in mind, educators have a wealth of ideas to best support students’ progress going forward:

  • 53% see a need for a narrower focus on grade-level standards to ensure students learn the most important concepts for their grade level, with many also recommending less focus on standardized test preparation
  • 34% would like more paraprofessionals to provide targeted support to struggling students
  • 30% requested access to more social-emotional learning resources to help students process the events of the past year

In the Horace Mann study, teachers stressed the need for transparency and involvement in workplace decisions as administrators weigh how to adjust academic practices and curriculum. Many educators emphasized the need for flexibility in adapting to the ever-changing challenges of the pandemic, and patience as teachers, administrators, students and parents navigate an environment none of them have ever faced before.

“In the midst of the upheaval of the 2020-2021 school year, 93% of educators said they were proud of how they adapted their teaching to meet the needs of students, whether in a remote, hybrid or socially distanced in-person learning environment,” said Horace Mann National Business Solutions Executive Kelly Ruwe. “Teachers’ experience on the front lines will be invaluable in charting the way forward: Surfacing new issues that need to be addressed, sharing successful approaches, and advising how our communities can band together to help our children succeed.”

The full report, “Closing the Learning Gap: How frontline educators want to address lost learning due to COVID-19” is available at

About Horace Mann
Horace Mann Educators Corporation is the largest financial services company focused on providing America's educators and school employees with insurance and retirement solutions. Founded by Educators for Educators® in 1945, the company is headquartered in Springfield, Ill. For more information, visit, or follow us @Horace Mann on Twitter and LinkedIn, and @HoraceMannInsurance on Facebook.

© 2023 Horace Mann Educators Corporation

CUSTOMER SERVICE Call 800-999-1030

  • Auto and Property
    M – F, 7 a.m. - 8 p.m. Central time.
  • Life, Annuity and Group
    M – F, 7 a.m. - 7 p.m. Central time.