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Study: Students Aren’t Bouncing Back Post-Pandemic
close up boys fingers pointing to words in book - stock photo Gary John Norman via Getty Images
Gary John Norman via Getty Images

A recent national study showed how the effects of the pandemic still linger for many students. 

“Were there signs of stabilization? Yeah, there really were,” Gene Kerns, chief academic officer at Renaissance Learning Inc., said, per The Wall Street Journal. He added, however, that the results are not back to pre-pandemic rates. “There are not signs of a recovery if you define that as getting back to where we were performing before all this.”

Renaissance looked at test results from kids across the country. The group explained that the sample “consisted of students at schools where Star computer-adaptive assessments were used during both the 2020–2021 and 2021–2022 school years. The sample included students from all 50 states plus DC, with 4.4 million K–12 students comprising the early literacy/reading sample and 2.9 million grade 1–12 students comprising the math sample.”

With regard to math, the survey found that the nationwide percentage of students at or above the benchmark went down 2% when contrasting the winter of the 2021-2022 school year and the 2020-2021 school year winter. The same percentage decrease was seen in literacy levels. 

The Journal noted, “Fall-to-winter growth, however, improved this school year, and the gulf in scores from last year to this year shrank by winter.”

The group also tracks “Student Growth Percentile” (SGP) levels, “which is similar to the percentile measurements tracking a child’s weight and height, with 50 marking the typical person,” per the outlet.

Nationwide, the median fall to winter SGP level for math from the 2021-2022 school year, compared to the year prior, is 50, up 3 points. For reading, it is also up 3 points and sits at 48 for the entire country. To return entirely to pre-pandemic measurements, the numbers needs to be over 50 persistently, per Renaissance. 

The pandemic not only disrupted children’s learning by forcing students to transition to remote schooling, but the requirement of mask-wearing is also considered by some to have affected the speech development of young children. 

Out of the students who went to programs at the Institute of Reading Development, a literacy organization, around 49% of those going into first grade this school year were reading at a level below what was expected. Prior to the pandemic, that number was at 28%.

Earlier this month, The New York Times reported on “this year’s reading emergency,” noting that multiple studies revealed how more students in lower grades are not performing as well in reading as they were prior to the pandemic. 

While literacy was already an issue before the coronavirus pandemic, the complications surrounding school shutdowns likely made it significantly worse. 

A study found that in Virginia, early reading ability was at a 20-year low in the fall, which the researchers called “alarming.”

The Times reported, “In the Boston region, 60 percent of students at some high-poverty schools have been identified as at high risk for reading problems — twice the number of students as before the pandemic, according to Tiffany P. Hogan, director of the Speech and Language Literacy Lab at the MGH Institute of Health Professions in Boston.” 

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