The average elementary student will need three or more years to catch up on reading and math skills after the pandemic, researchers said.

For middle school students, they expect it will take much longer — and for some, “full recovery” isn’t attainable before the end of high school.

Those estimates are according to new research released Tuesday from NWEA, a nonprofit research group that administers standardized tests.

“What we see in these results is really a mixed bag — some early signs of optimism, but also definitely need for continued urgency in coping with this crisis,” said Dr. Karyn Lewis, Director of the Center for School and Student Progress at NWEA, and the co-author with Dr. Megan Kuhfeld on the research.

“We need to be realistic about what the timeline is for recovery. And based on these results, it’s most certainly a multi-year effort,” Lewis said.

The study analyzes data from 8.3 million students from 25,000 public schools who took the Measures of Academic Progress or MAP Growth assessment in reading and math during three pandemic-era school years.

That data was then compared with numbers from three years leading up to the pandemic.

The average elementary student will need three or more years to catch up on reading and math skills after the COVID-19 pandemic.
The average elementary student will need three or more years to catch up on reading and math skills after the COVID-19 pandemic, researchers say.
AP Photo/David Goldman

NWEA contextualized the figures against the backdrop of a “myriad of challenges,” the study’s authors wrote — including staff shortages and student absences due to sickness and other impacts of COVID-19, and even periodic school closures.

Researchers predicted that students are more likely to fully recover in reading before they do in math. They also pointed to a pattern of middle school students showing less evidence of improvement than their peers in elementary school.

In a sign that learning loss has stabilized, however, the researchers found that students’ progress during the 2021-22 school year was more consistent with pre-pandemic trends than prior years impacted by COVID-19.

“These signs of rebounding are especially heartening during another challenging school year of more variants, staff shortages, and a host of uncertainties,” said Lewis in a statement.

“We think that speaks volumes to the tremendous effort put forth by our schools to support students,” Lewis said.

For middle schoolers, researchers expect it will take much longer to catch up.
For middle schoolers, researchers expect it will take much longer to catch up.
AP Photo/David Goldman, File

But the research also showed that students in high-poverty schools had fallen further behind, and will likely need additional time to fully recover. The study also disaggregated students by race, showing that white and Asian students have lost less learning than Hispanic, Black and Native American students.

Lindsay Dworkin, the senior vice president of Policy and Communications at NWEA, suggested that policymakers and education leaders invest in solutions targeting the kids most impacted by the pandemic.

“Education leaders will need the resources, support and flexibility necessary to expand instructional time for students, as well as provide more professional learning opportunities to their teachers,” Dworkin said in a statement.

With Post Wires



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