After a full school year during the COVID-19 pandemic, elementary and middle school students are heading into the fall with lower rates of achievement gains in reading and math than they would have during a typical school year, new research shows.
The researchers say the results were worse in high-poverty areas and could have been even worse overall had thousands of students “missing” from school systems been counted. Separately, they say that it would take “unprecedented” levels of growth to make up for the past school year.
NWEA, a Portland-Oregon-based education research organization that develops pre-K-12 assessments, expedited research on test scores from the 2020-21 school year to help spotlight student needs ahead of the fall.
Researchers compared gains in student achievement in grades 3-8 across the school year to pre-pandemic levels — specifically, the 2018-19 school year — based on the average results of its MAP Growth assessments in reading and math.
They found that, looking at the results of 5.5 million test-takers, students did make modest progress overall over the course of the school year — but not as much as during a typical year. Compared to 2018-19, average achievement gains declined 3 to 6 percentile points in reading depending on the grade level. There was an even steeper decline in math, between 8 and 12 percentile points.