The pandemic has affected these students the most

How has the pandemic affected students? The latest research has come out, and the answer is clear: dramatically. In math and reading, ...


How has the pandemic affected students?

The latest research has come out, and the answer is clear: dramatically.

In math and reading, students lag behind a normal grade, with the most vulnerable students posting the largest drops, according to two new reports from consulting firm McKinsey & Company and the NWEA, a goal-oriented organization. nonprofit that provides academic assessments. .

The students didn’t just drop out from the start; setbacks accumulated over time and continued even after many students returned to class this spring.

The reports echo the findings of Texas and Indiana, some of the first states to release test results from the past school year. Both states showed significant declines in reading and math.

The results paint an alarming picture of an education system plagued by racial and socio-economic inequalities that have only worsened during the coronavirus pandemic. An educational divide has turned into a chasm.

“It’s a bitter pill to swallow,” said Karyn Lewis, senior researcher at the NWEA and lead author of the organization’s report, which was released Wednesday. “It keeps you from sleeping at night.”

For example, in math, third-graders Latino students scored 17 percentile points lower in spring 2021 compared to typical Latin American third-graders scores in spring 2019. The drop was 15 percentile points for black students, compared to similar students in the past, and 14 for native students, according to the NWEA report.

Asian and white students also scored lower than similar students in 2019, but the impact was less severe, at nine percentiles each.

The report used data from about 5.5 million public school students in Grades 3 through 8 who took the NWEA tests in the 2020-21 school year, and compared their performance to those of similar students in 2019. The percentiles in the report ranked student performance for the two groups. against national standards before the pandemic.

Perhaps even more disturbing, the students most affected by the crisis were already behind their peers before the pandemic, and the additional losses pushed them back even further.

In a striking example, third-graders who attended a low-income school scored 17 percentile points lower in math this spring compared to similar students in 2019, pushing the average performance of third-graders to low income at the 39th to 22nd percentile nationally. The scores of their peers in the wealthier schools, which historically performed in the 71st percentile, fell only seven points, leaving them in the 64th percentile, well above the typical national average.

The losses did not happen from the start. In a startling finding, NWEA researchers found that students made gains in the fall, but the pace of learning slowed more significantly from winter to spring, even after returning. many schools in person.

“We were all caught off guard by this,” said Dr Lewis, who speculated that pandemic fatigue may have played a role.

At the end of the school year, students were on average four to five months behind their usual pattern in the past, according to the McKinsey report, which found similar impacts on the most vulnerable students.

Students who attended predominantly black or Hispanic schools were six months behind what they normally would have been in math, compared to four months for white students. Likewise, students who attended a low-income school ended the year seven months behind their typical math performance, compared to four months for schools where families were better off financially.

The report also found that the setbacks in reading accumulated over time.

“The reading was almost as bad as the math,” said Emma Dorn, associate partner at McKinsey and lead author of the report, which was released Tuesday and used data from Program associates, an evaluation company. The report analyzed the results of more than 1.6 million elementary students who took assessments this spring and compared the results with demographically similar groups in the spring of 2017, 2018 and 2019.

Ms Dorn warned the results could be an underestimate as the data was based on in-person testing and did not take into account students who are still learning remotely.

The disparities most likely reflect a number of factors. Low-income communities and communities of color tended to have less access to technology, and they have experienced disproportionate rates of Covid-19 and higher unemployment. The McKinsey report also found that students in more urban schools faced greater setbacks than those in rural schools, who were generally more likely to return to school in person.

There is some good news. Unlike images evoked by phrases like “learning loss,” almost all of the students made gains during the pandemic, just at a slower-than-normal pace. And the lapels were on the lower end of some previous projections.

And while the new research offers a clearer view of how students are doing, the usefulness of measuring student performance has been questioned, especially during a year of upheaval and trauma.

“The problem with the learning loss narrative is that it relies on a set of racialized assumptions and focuses on test scores,” said Ann Ishimaru, associate professor at the University of Washington College of Education. who opposed defining the impact of the pandemic as children. “falling behind.”

“It is mostly children of color who are presumed to be injured while at home,” said Dr Ishimaru, who said his conversations with families of color suggested that some children prefer to learn from a distance because they don’t did not have to deal with micro and macro attacks and other challenges they encounter in school.

She argued that many children have learned a lot over the past year and a half – about loss and grief, about racism and resistance, about cooking and family traditions at home. “What if we focused on the learning found, then we rebuild our education systems from that learning? ” she said.

One argument for measuring student performance, however, is to document where help is needed.

“I’m less interested in the standardized tests used to classify children, and much more in assessments to diagnose learning needs,” said Pedro Noguera, dean of the Rossier School of Education at the University of Southern California. .

He called on schools to hire more tutors and specialists and develop a personalized plan for each student, similar to the individualized plans required for students with disabilities.

“We need this kind of approach for all children,” he said.

Research shows that frequent and intensive tutoring – one-on-one or in small groups, several times a week – is one of the most effective ways to help students fill academic gaps, even if it is expensive. A report from Georgia State University estimated that tutoring could cost up to $ 3,800 per year per student, compared to other options like extending the school day by one hour (about $ 800 per student) and offering tutoring classes. summer (at least $ 1,100 per student).

“If you have a teacher with 33 kids, this won’t be a recipe for solving this problem,” Dr Noguera said.

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