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New report examines impact of school shutdowns on student achievement

TAMPA, Fla. — From shutdowns to remote learning, students have faced many disruptions in school from COVID-19.

A new report looks at how school shutdowns impacted student achievement at the start of the new school year.

Like many students across the Tampa Bay area, Jennifer Rogers’ son, Daniel, dealt with challenges in school brought on by COVID-19. Daniel is a student in his school’s Exceptional Student Education (ESE) program.

“Luckily, we were able to maintain private therapies that helped support some normalcy and support part of his academics, but the behavior was a very significant regression on his part as well as other students that I’ve spoken to parents about,” said Rogers.

Beth Tarasawa, NWEA Executive Vice President of Research, shared how their report examined the impacts of school closures on student achievement at the beginning of the 2020-2021 school year.

“We looked at about 4.4 million kids in grades 3 through 8 who took our MAP Growth assessment in reading and math,” said Tarasawa. “We were looking at two research questions.”

Researchers wanted to know how students performed this fall compared to last fall and how student growth changed since schools physically closed in March. The research found compared to Fall 2019, student achievement this fall was similar in reading, but 5 to 10 percentile points lower in math.

The report also revealed most students showed growth in both reading and math since the pandemic started, but growth in math was lower than in a normal year.

“Given all the craziness of COVID, I think we were, as researchers, we were in a lot of ways pleased that it wasn’t as bad as a lot of predictions, including our own projections, were for the potential reading loss as well as the math loss,” said Tarasawa. “But we’re not through the pandemic yet, and so there are schools that are reopening, are closing, and we don’t necessarily know what it’s going to be consistent normal for kids any time soon.”

The report notes that student groups especially vulnerable to the impacts of the pandemic were more likely to be missing from their data, reading that “we have an incomplete understanding of how achievement this fall may differ across student groups and may be underestimating the impacts of COVID-19.”

“It really begs these additional questions, especially from our more vulnerable communities, what the impacts are that may be differential across subgroups: English Language Learners, our kids of color, our kids that need accommodations who have disabilities,” said Tarasawa.

The report says educators and policymakers should plan to give support to students who have fallen behind. The Florida Department of Education (FLDOE) announced this week it will now require educational interventions for struggling students in the spring.

Rogers reminds parents to check what resources, like tutoring, your district may have to help your student succeed.

“We’ll get through it,” said Rogers. “Our kids are resilient, and they will rebound, and they will grow from this in one way or another.”

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