Saturday, June 15, 2024
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South Africa: Covid-19 Hurt Kids' Math Learning More Than Reading and Writing – With the Biggest Setbacks in Fall 2020

The Research Brief is a short take about interesting academic work.

The big idea

The COVID-19 pandemic had a stark negative impact on students’ math scores, new data from Michigan shows. Math achievement growth over the three-year period from spring 2019 through spring 2022 was substantially lower – approximately 7 national percentiles – than among comparable students the three years prior.

There were even larger decreases among students who are Black or Latino, low income or who attended the majority of schools that taught remotely for at least part of the 2020-2021 academic year.

Effects on scores for English language arts, which include reading and writing, were small and generally not statistically significant.

To arrive at these findings, we looked at individual test scores and other data from Michigan.

First we looked at how math and English language arts test scores on Michigan’s annual statewide M-STEP exam grew between 2019 and 2022 for a group of students in third grade through fifth grade in spring 2019.

We compared these students’ test score growth with growth achieved by similar students who were in those same grades three years earlier, before the pandemic began. This provides us with a broad view of the impact of the pandemic on school learning as measured through test scores.

We also looked at scores from a series of benchmark tests taken between fall 2020 and spring 2022 to measure how achievement growth changed within each school year leading up to and following the height of the pandemic.

While other studies also show how the pandemic set back student achievement, our research looks at how achievement was affected over the course of the pandemic rather than just the end result. And the picture is pretty clear: Using a set of exams given at the beginning and end of each school year, we found a large drop in achievement between fall 2020 and spring 2021.

While student achievement began to improve in spring 2021, that recovery has been too slow to enable students to reach pre-pandemic expectations for test scores.

And, just as Black, Latino and low-income students suffered the largest drops in test scores during the pandemic, their math recovery has also slightly lagged behind white students and students who were more affluent.