COVID-19 academic losses: Predictions and recommendations (Best Evidence in Brief)

On Friday I’ll be giving an online talk for ResearchEDHome on the impact of COVID-19 on education and how to handle what’s next. This new study that I found via Best Evidence in Brief comes just in time:

More than 55 million students in the U.S. are not in school due to COVID-19, and many won’t return until fall. Knowing what academic losses to expect can help teachers and administrators better plan for students’ return. Using summer learning loss data as a reference, The Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA) has released a report, The COVID-19 slide: What summer learning loss can tell us about the potential impact of school closures on student academic achievement.

Megan Kuhfeld and Beth Tarasawa at NWEA examined a national sample of more than 5 million 3rd-8th graders who took the 2017-18 Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) assessment, which tracks academic growth and is aligned to the Common Core Standards. They used typical summer learning loss rates to predict potential COVID-19 learning loss rates. Results showed that students are projected to return in the fall with 70% of the expected reading gains they would have otherwise made, with dramatically less gains in math, ranging from 50% of expected yearly gains to a decrease of falling a year behind what would have normally been expected.

Based on these findings, the authors made several recommendations, including:

  • Students need to be provided with effective instructional materials and support, especially in math
  • Educators will need data to understand the amount of loss students have experienced and thus where to start when school resumes, although getting this data will be difficult.
  • An established, longitudinal database can be the springboard that helps schools understand their students’ losses. If patterns of loss can be identified that can be generalized to the nation’s children, potential policies and practices for recovery might be established. This requires schools, researchers, and policymakers to work together to achieve this common goal.

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