Elementary students recover faster from learning loss due to COVID, study finds | New

Elementary students are regaining the ground they lost during the pandemic at a faster rate than older students, recent research shows, but K-12 students are still years away from a recovery complete.

By comparing the most recent National Measures of Academic Progress, or MAP, assessment data from 8.3 million students in grades 3 through 8 in reading and math, researchers from the Northwest Evaluation Test Group Association found that elementary students had the most learning recovery last year. of any group of students. Meanwhile, middle school students either made slower progress recovering from learning loss or remained stagnant, NWEA researcher Karyn Lewis said in an interview with EdSource.

Lewis sees the data as a sign of hope for this group of younger students, who researchers originally predicted would have the hardest time recovering from the disruption to schools caused by the pandemic.

Schools and districts have apparently kept this in mind when planning their learning recovery strategies.

“That was the group we were most concerned about, and rightly so because our research and that of our colleagues showed that it was the hardest hit group,” Lewis said. “I think that’s probably due, in part, to spreading that message, and schools and districts taking a triage approach, focusing energy on our youngest learners.”

The NWEA now projects that primary school students, on average, will fully recover from pandemic-induced learning loss in three years or more. Older students are expected to recover in five years or more.

When the pandemic raged in the fall of 2020, hundreds of thousands of families across the country opted out of enrolling their children in public school, with the largest groups being kindergarteners and middle school students. first to third year. Researchers at the time feared that these students would have the hardest time adjusting when they returned to school.

California K-12 schools have lost 271,000 students since Covid hit in the spring of 2020. Census Day enrollment, still the first Wednesday in October, was 5.89 million students for the 2021-22 school year; five years ago it was 6.23 million.

Learning loss was also a top concern for policymakers, which is why billions of US federal bailout funds were earmarked specifically for schools to address the issue.

Lewis found that the range of abilities of students at the same level had widened in the 2021-22 school year. Lewis attributed this to the uneven impact of the pandemic on students and said the spread was most dramatic among elementary school students.

“Children may come to class at the same age, but not all come to class with the same level of readiness and readiness to undertake grade-level content,” Lewis said.

This range of abilities will make teachers’ jobs “exponentially more difficult” than before, Lewis said.

According to the study, students at all grade levels had greater gains in math than in reading. Previous research has indicated that the pandemic has had greater negative impacts on math scores than on reading scores.

Identifying the most effective methods and strategies used to get students back on track remains the “million dollar question that everyone is asking right now,” Lewis said. NWEA, a nonprofit organization that provides school assessment options, research and professional development offerings, and its partners, is studying what has worked and what hasn’t worked, but it’s ” still too early to tell,” she said.

A similar analysis by the NWEA at the end of the 2020-21 school year painted a grimmer picture of the state of learning loss: the data indicated that at all levels, the amount of learning unfinished was increasing, meaning that students were finishing the year even further behind.

“At that point, it wasn’t even about recovering, it was about stopping the bleeding,” Lewis said. “The good news is that at the start of this school year, it looks like the bleeding has stopped, but it will be a long road before it is completely healed.”

The progress students made last year was split across income levels and ethnic groups, Lewis said. But the achievement disparities affecting Latino, Black, and Native American or Alaska Native students have only widened since the pandemic began, according to NWEA research. The research also found that students had lower academic gains than in a “typical year” before the pandemic, with students in very poor schools remaining disproportionately affected.

The improvements students made last year should be celebrated, Lewis said, but students — especially older students — still have a long way to go to get back on track. The return to school for middle school students remained stagnant or fell further last year. For some students, a full recovery may not be possible until after high school, according to NWEA research.

Lewis was disheartened that the NWEA’s estimated timeline for full recovery exceeded the timelines of federal recovery funds. The $15 billion for schools and districts authorized by Congress in 2021 under the U.S. bailout has a use-or-lose date of January 2025.

“It’s been such a difficult year. Schools always take a holistic approach to putting supports and interventions in place, and there’s still a long way to go,” Lewis said. “So I fear that if we take away those federal dollars while the schools are still trying to catch up with the kids, it will delay the process even further.”

This story, from Bay City News Service, was originally published by Ed Source.