COVID's Impact on Student Achievement
Report: COVID Learning Loss Beginning to Shrink
A new report using data from 3.8 million students reveals that, in
large part, students are performing near pre-pandemic expectation
levels in reading, in particular in elementary grades, while they lag
a bit more in math. But students in middle school are performing
poorly as measured against pre-pandemic expectations, as are students
who are members of underrepresented and at-risk populations.
The report, How Kids Are Performing: Tracking the Midyear Impact of
COVID-19 on Reading and Mathematics Achievement, was released by
Renaissance Learning in late April. The results were based on
assessments students too in grades 1–8 in reading and math. Using
historical data, researchers calculated where students would be had
the pandemic not hit.
The findings: “The report’s overall conclusion is that student
growth during the first half of the 2020–2021 school year is
approaching expected levels in both reading and math. On a Percentile
Rank basis, students are about 2 points behind pre-COVID expectations
in reading and 6 points behind in math. So, while students remain
close to expectations for reading (+/- 3 weeks), students are still
4–7 weeks behind in math. Based on comparisons between performance
results in winter 2021 and fall 2020, COVID achievement impacts are
beginning to shrink in many grades.”
In terms of locale, rural and suburban students are better than
students in urban settings. Rural students in particular saw the
greatest growth between fall and winter.
By age, older students are faring worse than younger. Students in
grades 7 and 8 are the farthest behind, according to the report.
In terms of race and ethnicity, according to the report: “Students
of all races and ethnicities were below pre-pandemic expectations for
math, with Asian and white students closest to typical achievement
levels and Hispanic or Latino students, Black, and American Indian or
Alaska Native students experiencing more substantial impacts. Black,
Hispanic, and American Indian or Alaska Native students also lost the
most ground in reading from the fall to winter assessments.”
Renaissance said it will continue tracking student performance and
also released free resources. According to the company: “This
access to the myON digital reading platform, reading and math
engagement kits, and summer school implementation guides for
Renaissance’s Star Assessments, Accelerated Reader, myON, and
The Complete report can be downloaded from
About the Author
David Nagel is editorial director of 1105 Media's Education Technology Group and editor-in-chief of THE Journal and STEAM Universe. A 29-year publishing veteran, Nagel has led or contributed to dozens of technology, art and business publications.
He can be reached at [email protected]. You can also connect with him on LinkedIn at or follow him on Twitter at @THEDavidNagel (K-12) or @CampusTechDave (higher education).