Test scores are improving after pandemic school closures, but some students will never catch up

American students have suffered historic losses in reading and math performance during school closures due to COVID-19. Years after schools reopened, there is continued evidence of lasting damage to student learning, everything ACT scores at school attendance showing continuous collapses compared to pre-pandemic years.

But a new study shows that students have regained some lost ground since the pandemic, raising hopes that depressed academic outcomes may not be permanent.

Researchers from Harvard, Stanford and Dartmouth examined the test scores of third through eighth graders from about 8,000 school districts in 30 states. They found that 35% of school districts lost more than six months of instruction immediately after the pandemic, while only 27% saw no change or improvement in achievement.

Not surprisingly, learning losses have been most extreme in low-income school districts. In many states, the recovery in scores is driven primarily by improvements in higher-income school districts. However, there were some outliers: poor districts where scores saw seemingly miraculous improvements, and wealthy districts where scores continued to decline.

The researchers found that by 2023, students had made up about a third of their math losses and about a quarter of their reading losses. Of the 30 states studied, only one, Oregon, failed to improve its 2022 scores in 2023.

An analysis of researchers’ data published in The New York Times proposed Wednesday that how schools spend federal funds played a major role in determining which schools improved and which did not. When the federal government poured out $190 billion in an effort to help schools recover after closures was only 20% of the funds schools received necessary to be used to address learning loss.

As a result, many school districts have dedicated the majority of their funds to covering expenses that have nothing to do with student learning, such as building new athletic facilities, paying custodians, or even building a sports center. owned by the city birdwatching center. Not surprisingly, researchers found that schools that spent a larger share of their funding to address learning loss recovered better after the pandemic. When the Times After interviewing educators in school districts with unusually high grade recovery rates, school employees highlighted how their schools were focused on spending federal aid primarily on academics.

Unfortunately, the study also found that many students would likely never recover from the losses suffered due to prolonged school closures, meaning that thousands of American schoolchildren will likely enter adulthood with serious academic gaps and could face the potential for permanently depressed earnings.

“Few would be pleased to know that poor children have paid a higher price for the pandemic than others, but that is exactly the path many states are taking,” the researchers wrote in a paper. relationship of their discoveries. “Last year, students accounted for a third of the pandemic loss in math and a quarter of the loss in reading. While that’s good news, it also means that even if schools keep the same pace this year, students, especially in lower-income districts, are unlikely to return to 2019 levels when the federal dollars are no longer there.”

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