Student Achievement

Students’ Pandemic-Related Academic Loss Has Slowed for Some, Research Finds

By Ileana Najarro — August 25, 2022 4 min read
Image of a teacher working with a student through a screen session.
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

While students lost less ground academically on average in the 2021-22 school year compared to the first year of the pandemic, many students—especially those in remote learning for longer periods of time—still sustained serious losses, concludes a new report.

The Center for Reinventing Public Education, a Seattle-based research organization, analyzed studies on students’ academic progress released since summer 2021 as part of a series of reports on the pandemic’s impact on student learning. The studies offer a snapshot of the various trajectories of students’ reading and math skills throughout the pandemic, though they are drawn from different states and populations.

Among the key findings are that low-income children and students of color, especially Black and Hispanic kids, missed out on academic gains the more time they spent in remote instruction. And even when schools reopened, intermittent closures tied to COVID-19 breakouts and issues with both teacher and student attendance made continuity of learning difficult, said Paul Hill, the founder of the CRPE.

Prior to the 2021-22 school year, questions abounded about who would opt for remote instruction and whether students pursuing that option would get the same quality educational experience as peers attending school in-person, including being able to participate in extracurriculars.

The new CRPE analysis attempts to paint a national picture of the continuing academic effects of the pandemic this past school year. Here are some of itstakeaways:

  • Learning delays have been mitigated slightly. A study from Ohio found that 3rd graders were four to six months behind normal progress in reading in fall 2020, but only one and a half months behind when tested in fall 2021. Separately, a national study based on data from one curriculum provider found that, on average, learning delays continued but were smaller in 2020–2021.
  • Remote learning is correlated with students falling behind overall. In general, students fell farther below grade level for every month they were not attending school in person. One study based on a national database estimated that fall 2021 test scores for grades 3–8 were 0.27 standard deviations (approximately a year’s learning) lower in reading, and 0.14 standard deviations lower in mathematics than in fall 2019. (The question of which age group experienced the most learning delays is still unclear.)

    Hill, from CRPE, said that there are still open questions around the quality of remote instruction available in the 2021-22 school year. Though many have argued that schools should have stayed open throughout the pandemic, Hill noted that those schools that closed were often in areas with greater incidence of the disease and within communities reporting greater numbers of deaths.

  • Students from low-income families and students of color were more likely to be in remote instruction longer and suffered greater learning delays. The report cited a national study and a Michigan-based study that found that gaps in the percentages of children far below grade level widened, especially between students who are advantaged, white, and Asian compared to their peers who are low income, Black, and Hispanic, or who have disabilities. Black children in schools that were closed for long periods and relied on remote learning experienced major learning delays. And Black students who lost the most days of instruction generally attended racially isolated schools.
  • Absenteeism impacted in-person instruction and learning recovery efforts. Chronic student absenteeism resulted in enrollment declines that were especially acute in certain major cities, the report found. In particular, “attendance was often spotty—or nonexistent—after districts delayed the date for opening buildings or closed classrooms or schools for virus outbreaks,” the report found. In remote instruction, it often wasn’t even clear whether students were truly logging on to class.

There were also a few notable silver linings in the report. A handful of studies from Illinois, North Carolina, and Ohio identified grade levels and subjects where learning delays were smaller for low-income or minority children than for their white peers. And a North Carolina report found that academic growth rates for special education students during the pandemic were comparable to prepandemic student progress.

Moving forward, Hill from CRPE hopes that schools are able to better tailor their resources to students—such as how they use time and how they focus their curriculum.

“Different kids in different schools in different localities will have had very different experiences and suffer different degrees of loss, and people in localities and states have to expect differences,” Hill said. “One size does not fit all here in terms of interventions.”

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Early Childhood Webinar
How the Science of Reading Elevates Our Early Learners to Success
From the creators of ABCmouse, learn how a solution grounded in the science of reading can prepare our youngest learners for kindergarten.
Content provided by Age of Learning
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
English-Language Learners Webinar
Classroom Strategies for Building EL Students’ Confidence and Success
Fueling success for EL students who are learning new concepts while navigating an unfamiliar language. Join the national discussion of strategies and Q&A.
Content provided by Project Lead The Way
Future of Work Live Online Discussion Seat at the Table: Understanding the Critical Link Between Student Mental Health and the Future of Work
In recent months, there’s been a rallying cry against the teaching of social-emotional skills. Discover why students need these skills now more than ever.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Student Achievement The Pandemic Was a 'Wrecking Ball' for K-12, and We're Still Tallying the Damage
Academic problems, mental health issues, and long-term grief are still taking their toll on K-12 schools.
3 min read
Image of the concept of domino effect.
Underneon Studio/iStock/Getty
Student Achievement Digging Deeper Into the Stark Declines on NAEP: 5 Things to Know
What the national assessment can—and can’t—illuminate about the effects of the past two pandemic years.
9 min read
Image of a test sheet.
Chainarong Prasertthai/iStock/Getty
Student Achievement Students' Math and Reading Plummet, Erasing Years of Gains, National Assessment Finds
It's a perfect storm of bad news: Student achievement plummeted, and the declines were greatest among the most vulnerable students.
4 min read
Tight crop of a student holding a pencil doing classwork or taking a test.
iStock/Getty Images Plus
Student Achievement What Teachers Say Is the Biggest Barrier to Learning Recovery
A Khan Academy/YouGov survey of teachers explores views on unfinished learning, getting students to master concepts, and grading.
3 min read
Pre-K teacher Vera Csizmadia teaches 3-and 4-year-old students in her classroom at the Dr. Charles Smith Early Childhood Center in Palisades Park, N.J., on Sept. 16, 2021.
Almost 6 in 10 teachers said their students mastered the content they needed to during the 2021-22 school year, according to a Khan Academy/YouGov survey.
Mary Altaffer/AP