If you’re one of the many parents who had to try and keep track of links, passwords, headphones, and chargers in the early days of online learning, you can probably tell that the experiment didn’t go well. Watching my kids zone out during Zoom meetings didn’t require a master’s degree in education to understand that they weren’t learning as much as they did personally in school.
Now, the results – in terms of children’s academic achievement – are coming in, and the news is not good.
Nationally, test scores in math and reading declined significantly from 2020 to 2022. Children who received little individual schooling began their exposure to black children and low achievers.
What parents need to know about the drop — and how to help your kids catch it.
How much land was lost during the pandemic?
This year, the National Assessment of Educational Progress, or “report card of the nation,” administered its long-term trend assessment to 7,400 9-year-olds in 410 schools. The scores reflect an average drop of 5 points in reading and 7 points in maths since the last time the test was taken.
This is the biggest drop in reading scores on the NAEP since 1990, and the first drop in math scores since the first test in 1973.
The lower the student scored, the deeper the dip became. In reading, students who scored in the top 10% of test takers saw an average drop of 2 points in their scores, while children who scored in the bottom 10% saw an average drop of 10 points. Similarly, in math, children in the top 10% saw their scores drop by an average of 3 points, while the bottom 10% dropped an average of 12 points.
Not surprisingly, students with higher scores reported greater access to online learning resources such as laptops and high-speed Internet, as well as greater confidence in their ability to learn remotely.
When divided by race and ethnicity, black, white and Hispanic students saw a 6-point drop in reading scores. But in math, scores for black students dropped by an average of 13 points, compared with 5 points for white students and 8 points for Hispanic students.
Test scores from different states tell a similar story, with a significant drop in the number of students meeting academic standards.
In an analysis of third through eighth grade test scores from 11 states, economist and bestselling parenting author Emily Oster and her co-authors found an average 12.8 percentage point drop in the pass rate on math tests and an average drop of 12.8 percentage points in the math test scores. 6.8 percent marks for English Language Arts.
Recently released data from Oregon shows that 43.6% of students passed the ELA exam this year and 30.4% passed math, compared to rates of 53.4% and 39.4% respectively in 2019.
It is important to note that data varies greatly between states.
What factors contributed to the drop in test scores?
The data validates what most parents suspected: Individual school is more effective for children than distance learning.
Oster and his co-authors found that the less individualized learning students had, the greater the drop in their test scores.
“These were learning losses, and they were bigger in areas where the school was remote,” Oster told HuffPost. “If parents are unsure of the value of individual schooling for their children, this clearly shows its value.”
Comparing how many students took these exams in smaller geographic areas, they found that districts with full distance schooling lost an additional 13 points in their math test pass rates compared to districts with no in-person schooling. In reading, there was an additional 8-point loss in pass rates.
These results, Oster said, “highlight the enormous value of personal interactions in schools.”
They can also illustrate the importance of “meditation and teachers and schools as places of safety and security,” she said. “It’s hard to know how much of an issue with distance school was that children were not there or not being able to be fully present.”
With students now back in their school buildings, there are already signs of hope for the loss to be reversed. Test scores are not back where they were in 2019, but they are rising.
“Between the end of 2021 and the end of 2022 we’ve seen — depending on the dataset — like a loss of one-third to two-thirds of test scores,” Oster said.
“It’s good news, in the sense of getting something right,” she said. “It shows that there is still a long way to go.”
Where shall we go from here?
Shell Polako-Suransky served as New York City’s school chancellor before becoming president of Bank Street College of Education in 2014.
Regarding the pandemic’s drop in test scores, he said that “if every institution in our society was damaged by the pandemic, we should not be surprised and panic a lot.”
“The things we need to do are clear,” he said. “We need to reconnect children and families to schools.”
Polako-Suransky believes that some schools are setting up tuition programs with federal aid dollars to help children catch up, and that these can be effective. But “there is no substitute for the class going well.”
“If schools are set up in a way that kids love to be there and are engaged, they’re going to learn, [and to] Hold on,” he said.
A parent might reasonably assume that if a child is struggling with reading and math, they should spend more time reading and doing math than talking about their feelings or playing games with their peers. should do.
But learning doesn’t work like medicine, where you can simply increase the dosage. The right circumstances should be carefully followed by a skilled teacher.
It was this interpersonal interaction with adults and peers – what we all now know as “socio-emotional learning” – that children lacked when school was online, and it is these relationships that now supply the foundation of their academic development. can do.
When we focus on how far behind kids are, or what they can’t, we risk losing perspective, Polako-Suransky said.
Learning loss isn’t the whole story of the epidemic. Polako-Suransky suggests that we also ask: “What did they learn during this period that they may not have [otherwise]And what power are they bringing to the table?”
To be academically successful, students “must be in a reliable environment, interested in what is happening at school, [and] The work needs to be both rigorous and challenging, and it is also very engaging,” he said.
If your child is struggling at school in the wake of the pandemic, remember they are not alone – as the data shows, many other children are in the same boat. Look for skill-building activities outside of school that are interesting and engaging, such as reading books children choose for themselves, or doing math while shopping or cooking. Emphasize what your child does well, as well as encourage them to practice in areas where they are weak.
If you have any concerns, or if you’re considering hiring a tutor, it’s always worth checking with your child’s teacher. Building a strong, supportive relationship with your teacher will ultimately help your child learn.
“They need to feel that the people out there really know and care about them and are listening to them,” Polako-Suransky said. “There are no short cuts.”