Online Study of Reading Software Shows Widening Achievement Gap
- By Dian Schaffhauser
by the NWEA
projected major declines in student learning, particularly in math,
but also reading. A new study has found that learning loss for new
readers could be tracking as high as 28 percent by June 1, 2020 and
up to 49 percent by the end of summer. According to the research
organizers, this is the first published study of the current and
predicted impact of closures on learning using actual performance
measure before and after U.S. schools closed from the COVID-19.
study was based on data provided by Achieve3000, a reading platform
that measures student performance using algorithms tied to the Lexile
Framework. Researchers included Successful
Practices Network (SPN),
for College & Career Readiness
Nonprofit SPN provides schools with resources and assistance to
achieve success by design. Nonprofit Center for College & Career
Readiness works on maximizing individual learner engagement through
the use of neuroscience. Achieve3000 is an education technology
company that produces literacy programs.
project analyzed real-time data for 1.6 million students in 1,364
districts, all of which were doing remote instruction. Researchers
found that students are on track to lose nearly half (49 percent) of
their potential reading growth by the start of the 2020-2021 school
top of that, the achievement gap between students from lower- and
higher-income schools could widen by up to 18 percent as a worst-case
findings included these:
percent of schools showed decreased usage of the reading program
after they closed; the number of students overall who logged in
dropped by 43 percent and the share finishing at least one lesson
declined by 44 percent.
readers were projected to fall an additional six percent behind
districts are succeeding with online learning. In about 24 percent
of school systems, use of the program was "close to or on par"
with usage before the schools closed.
the figure here, the solid blue line represents actual growth for
active users of the Achieve3000 software before school closures. The
solid gray line shows the expected growth for students who weren't
using the literacy program. The dashed blue line shows the potential
growth possible if schools hadn't been forced to close. The
yellow-orange dashed line shows the "halted growth" for
non-active users after schools closed. The red dashed line shows the
expected halted growth for students not engaged in a literacy program
during school closures. The green dashed line shows the potential
summer slide. The two vertical bars towards the right show the
"unrealized potential gain," how much students will lose
between the combination of school closures (the first bar) and summer
slide (the second bar).
report offered a number of recommendations for educators, based on
planning for next year. It's possible schools will have to close
once more for the fall or winter. The report suggested that schools
"begin planning for improvements that can be implemented"
before school opens again.
summer to catch up. Find ways to reach out to students, the report
advised, to help them begin school next year where they would have
been this year if the pandemic hadn't flared.
on your online instructional skills. "Virtual learning is now a
career skill that needs to be mastered by both educators and
students," the report noted. Therefore, teachers need to train
on how to use a "technology-enabled approach to all teaching
report is openly available on
the Achieve3000 website.
Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.