Pandemic Babies May Never Recover From Lockdowns

By Eliana Regev | Thursday, 21 July 2022 16:45
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The average elementary student will require three or more years to catch up on reading and math skills after the pandemic, researchers announced.

For middle school students, they expect it will take much longer — and for some, “full recovery” isn’t attainable before the end of high school.

Those estimates are according to new research issued Tuesday from NWEA, a nonprofit research group that administers standardized tests.

“What we see in these results is really a mixed bag — some early signs of optimism, but also definitely need for continued urgency in coping with this crisis,” announced Dr. Karyn Lewis, Director of the Center for School and Student Progress at NWEA, and the co-author with Dr. Megan Kuhfeld on the research.

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“We need to be realistic about what the timeline is for recovery. And based on these results, it’s most certainly a multi-year effort,” Lewis stated.

The study analyzes data from 8.3 million students from 25,000 public schools who took the Measures of Academic Progress or MAP Growth assessment in reading and math throughout three pandemic-era school years.

That data was then compared with numbers from three years leading up to the pandemic.

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NWEA contextualized the figures against the backdrop of a “myriad of challenges,” the study’s authors wrote — including staff shortages and student absences because of sickness and other impacts of COVID-19, and even periodic school closures.

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Researchers predicted that students are more likely to completely recover in reading before they do in math. They further pointed to a pattern of middle school students revealing less evidence of improvement than their peers in elementary school.

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In a sign that learning loss has stabilized, although, the researchers found that students’ progress throughout the 2021-22 school year was more consistent with pre-pandemic trends than in prior years impacted by COVID-19.

“These signs of rebounding are especially heartening during another challenging school year of more variants, staff shortages, and a host of uncertainties,” said Lewis in an announcement.

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“We think that speaks volumes to the tremendous effort put forth by our schools to support students,” Lewis stated.

But the research further demonstrated that students in high-poverty schools had fallen further behind, and will probably require further time to completely recover. The study further disaggregated students by race, revealing that white and Asian students have lost less learning than Hispanic, Black and Native American students.

Lindsay Dworkin, the senior vice president of Policy and Communications at NWEA, proposed that policymakers and education leaders invest in solutions targeting the kids most impacted by the pandemic.

“Education leaders will need the resources, support and flexibility necessary to expand instructional time for students, as well as provide more professional learning opportunities to their teachers,” Dworkin announced in a statement.

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