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 has also released free resources. According to the company: “This includes: free 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 Freckle programs.”

The Complete report can be downloaded from renaissance.com/how-kids-are-performing.

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 25-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 @THEJournalDave (K-12) or @CampusTechDave (higher education).


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