Dear Commons Community,
After the coronavirus pandemic sent a jolt through the American education system, interrupting the learning of millions of children, a new report offers a glimmer of hope: By the end of the last school year, many students had returned to a normal pace of academic growth for the first time since the pandemic began. Still, the pace was not nearly fast enough to have made up for steep pandemic losses.
At this rate, elementary school students may need at least three years to catch up to where they would have been had the pandemic not happened, and middle school students may need five years or more, according to the report released on yesterday by NWEA, a nonprofit organization that provides academic assessments to schools. Researchers examined the results of math and reading assessments for more than eight million students in approximately 25,000 schools. The report’s key findings were as follows:
• Initial signs of academic rebounding were evident in 2021–22, with reading and math
achievement gains paralleling pre-pandemic trends in many grades; rebounding
appeared stronger in math and among younger students.
• There were signs of rebounding across all school poverty levels; however, low-poverty
schools have less ground to make up and thus will likely recover faster.
• Despite some signs of rebounding, student achievement at the end of the 2021–22
school year remains lower than in a typical year, with larger declines in math (5 to 10
percentile points) than reading (2 to 4 percentile points). Modest improvements are
evident among elementary students. Middle school achievement declines appear to
be mostly unchanged.
• Black, Hispanic, and American Indian/Alaska Native (AIAN) students remain
Recovery is expected to take the longest for groups that were most affected by the pandemic, including low-income students and Black, Hispanic and Native American students. Research has found that extended remote learning was a primary driver of lost learning, widening racial and economic gaps during the pandemic. High-poverty schools tended to spend more time learning remotely, as did Black and Hispanic students.