Pandemic Response

COVID Learning Loss in Math Hits Hard in Grades 4–8

Research on the scope of learning loss during the pandemic has a new addition. Education technology company Illuminate Education examined assessments done by students who use its programs and found "modest reading losses" in grades K-8, "modest math" losses in the early elementary grades and "substantial math losses" in grades 4-8. These came about, the research suggested, as a result of COVID-19 disruptions, including delayed school openings, changes in instructional format, lack of universal access to technology, the "ramp up" to distance learning and "compromised" student engagement.

Researchers used data from a national sample of students who took assessments in FastBridge aReading and aMath during fall 2020 and compared that to a baseline of "annual gains" data developed from a million previous fall screenings dating back to fall 2016.

According to a report of the results, in reading, the average annual growth score dropped, especially for grades 1, 3 and 6. In math, the results were similar, but the loss was "much more significant" in the higher grades.

In terms of monthly growth rate, the data showed that for students in grades 5 and 6, the loss equated to about two to three months for reading. For math, in grades 5 through 8 losses ranged from three to four months. To make those losses up, according to the report, students would need to grow at almost twice the annual rate for the same number of months.

"The data show that we've reached a critical point. If we don't place greater emphasis on remedying losses now, achievement gaps are likely to widen later," said John Bielinski, senior director of research & development at Illuminate, in a statement. "Through regular screening, support, and practice, we can work to ensure students aren't left behind."

A summary of the results is available with registration on the FastBridge website.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.