Newspaper Constructions of the COVID-19 Learning Loss


  • Brandon Mitchell University of Louisville


COVID-19, learning loss, education, newspaper articles, critical discourse analysis, critical race theory, schools


Learning loss due to the pandemic has become a significant global concern. The purpose of this paper is to understand newspaper coverage of the COVID-19 learning loss. Critical discourse analysis with a lens of critical race theory is utilized to analyze (N = 50) newspaper articles. Results include: constructions of youth identities, racialized constructions of youth identities, factualized portrayals of learning loss, and the neoliberal narrative. Deficit-based student failings and an overarching crisis narrative negatively constructed youth identities. Generalized learning deficiencies and disproportionate impact led to racialized portrayals of loss, stigmatizing youth of color through de-contextualized and ahistorical patterns. Factualized portrayals of learning loss took shape through linguistical structure, word choices, data-based emphasis, and an expert narrative. Discourse depicted as fact undergirded the neoliberal narrative and justified increased testing and reform in schools. Implications of the analysis and recommendations to elevate support and strengthen youth voice are discussed.

Author Biography

Brandon Mitchell, University of Louisville

Brandon D. Mitchell is a doctoral candidate in the Kent School of Social Work and Family Science at the University of Louisville. His scholarship is aligned at the intersection of education and social work where he focuses on uprooting deficit-based ideology, the impact of the media on educational structures, and enhancing justice-oriented practice of the school social worker.