Return-to-Learn (RTL) in WA public high schools during COVID-19

Return-to-Learn (RTL) in WA public high schools during COVID-19

By: Alexandra de Leon Date: June 21st, 2023

Concussions can negatively impact academic performance in schools. The need for Return-to-Learn (RTL) programs in schools, including tailored accommodations, for students with concussion is important to promote safe and timely recovery for successful return to school.

In March 2020, schools across the nation closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. A study team from the University of Washington sought to understand what impact COVID-19 had on RTL in schools and for students with concussion.

Twenty-one WA public high schools participated in the study. The study found that about 28% of schools did not provide any RTL accommodation for students with concussion and that 38% of schools reported receiving no guidance on how to provide RTL accommodations during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many schools reported that students with concussion struggled more during the pandemic.

“Our study shows it’s clear that public high schools are struggling to provide RTL accommodations, regardless of student demographics, schools characteristics, or RTL policies,” Dr. Shyam Deshpande, study author says.

In Washington state, the University of Washington and Harborview Injury Prevention & Research Center have examined standardized RTL programs to better support students after concussion. Ongoing efforts to implement a state-wide RTL protocol are underway.

“There’s an opportunity for policy makers, educators and healthcare professionals to provide schools with evidence-based RTL guidance as well as to allocate resources to vulnerable schools to better support students with concussion,” Dr. Deshpande says.

The study ‘Return-to-learn after concussion in Washington state public high schools during the COVID-19 pandemicwas published June 2023 in the journal, Concussion. This research was supported in part by the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) and foundry10.

Investigators represent the Department of Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine and Department of Pediatrics at the University of Washington School of Medicine; Harborview Injury Prevention & Research Center; Department of Epidemiology at the University of Washington School of Public Health.