Research: Coronavirus Learning Loss Could Put Some Students Behind a Full Year
- By Dian Schaffhauser
from the NWEA
has projected that current school closures could, indeed, result in
major declines in student learning. The preliminary estimates found
that math would take a bigger hit than reading, and that some
students could return in the fall with less than 50 percent of the
typical learning gains. In some grades the decline could put them a
"full year behind" what would be expected under normal
conditions. NWEA is a nonprofit that creates the MAP series of
assessment programs, including MAP
develop their findings, NWEA researchers Megan Kuhfeld and Beth
Tarasawa used previous studies that examined summer learning loss
(also known as "summer slide"), based on a national sample
of more than five million students in grades 3-8 who took MAP Growth
compared three trajectories of academic achievement during a typical
school year for students in those same grades for reading and math.
The first trajectory, designated with a solid line, showed no
disruption to learning. The second one (the dashed line) showed the
"COVID-19 slowdown," in which students maintained the same
level of academic gain they had at the moment when schools were
closed. And the third (the dotted line) showed the "COVID-19
slide," in which students exhibited patterns of learning loss
typical of summers throughout an extended closure. The forecast used
March 15, 2020 as the starting point for school closures and the fall
start of school as the end point.
COVID slide estimate, which showed the direst projections, suggested
that students would return in fall 2020 with about 70 percent of the
learning gains they've already achieved in reading. In math, the
picture was worse: Students would return with less than half of the
learning gains; in some grades, the loss would equate to almost a
full year behind what they would have had in normal times.
report offered some caveats to its forecasting. While the current
school closures share some characteristics with summer break, the
projections don't take into account the fact that most school systems
have put some form of online learning in place, which would
counteract the full impact. However, at the same time, many students
who come from "historically marginalized" homes face
increased prospects of trauma, joblessness, food insecurity and
homelessness, which could make their learning outcomes "even
bleaker," the researchers noted.
preliminary forecasts parallel many education leaders' fears: Missing
school for a prolonged period will likely have major impacts on
student achievement come fall 2020," the report stated. "The
COVID-19 crisis is a call to action for practitioners and
policymakers alike. Once schools are back in session, we must be
prepared to support students, many of whom will likely be behind
report provided several recommendations to the education community to
address potential learning loss and support educators and families
during and after coronavirus.
and educators need to double up on the support they provide to
students on math, even as teaching and learning is being done at a
distance. That includes making sure families and students get
"access to appropriate, engaging math and reading materials,
instruction and support during coronavirus closures." It also
requires making sure all students have the access they need to
technology and the internet. Once those elements are in place,
school leaders need to "address more nuanced instructional
challenges like differentiation, accessibility and English language
need access to data that will help them steer lessons more
accurately in ways that will support their individual students.
policymakers and schools need to work together to develop "policies
and practices for recovery." While the summer slide data can
provide a "starting point" for understanding the impact of
school closures, the report explained, further research will be
needed to identify the "patterns of loss" various types of
schools will experience and to develop the policies that will help
them recover "in a timely manner."
is hosting an
on Apr. 22, 2020 to discuss the findings.
full report, "The COVID-19 slide: What summer learning loss can
tell us about the potential impact of school closures on student
academic achievement," is openly available on
the NWEA website.
Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.