August 18, 2020

August 2020 Research Rundown

By Krista Kaput

Welcome to EdAllies’ August Research Rundown—our curated list of recent, relevant research we think is worth adding to the education equity conversation. As schools plan for the upcoming school year, we’re sharing research on learning loss projections and research-based interventions, as well as an analysis of fall learning plans from across the country. 

1. 2020-21 Fall Reopening Plans and Summer Responses to COVID-19 Closures 

Center on Reinventing Public Education, August 2020 

The Center on Reinventing Public Education reviewed back-to-school plans from 86 districts to find out how schools are approaching the 2020-21 school year. They then compared the results to their spring distance learning plan analysis. They found that many more districts plan to offer students access to live instruction (79% v. 21%), and 87% of districts provide specific information on what remote curriculum they will provide. However, there were still many areas for improvement:

  • 29% mentioned using diagnostic assessments; 
  • 29% specified how they would support students academically while also getting them on grade level; 
  • 32% indicated how they would track attendance; and 
  • 21% of the districts specified how much instructional time that would be offered daily; 
  • 36% clearly stated how they will grade student work. 

The authors conclude that while there are many examples of innovative thinking, many critical details are still missing from the plans. CRPE calls for districts to continue to improve and deliver clear plans for how they will support students—particularly those traditionally underserved—for the upcoming school year. 


Many of the areas of improvement identified by CRPE’s analysis align with our analysis of spring distance learning plans in Minnesota, where we found:

  • Only 23% of districts specified that students would have access to live instruction;
  • 42% indicated teachers would provide feedback on assignments; 
  • 46% specified time expectations for distance learning; and 
  • 40% detailed their grading policies. 

With incredibly high stakes for long-term student outcomes—particularly for historically underserved students—districts must ensure that their fall learning plans are clear, transparent, and provide detailed information that ensures students will receive the best education possible. CRPE’s analysis can provide a framework for best practices and concerns to avoid in local planning.
Read the Full Analysis

2. School Practices to Address Student Learning Loss 

UChicago Consortium on School Research, June 2020 

Published in partnership with the Annenberg Institute at Brown University and Results for America, this brief provides research and recommendations for how districts can address learning loss. Importantly, the researchers noted that learning losses are likely to be larger for students who were already struggling academically and elementary school students. They also note that the learning losses are likely to be larger in math than in English, but that math losses are potentially more responsive to interventions. 

To address learning loss, the research recommends:

  • High-dosage tutoring that is directly tied to classroom content. Research from schools that were able to provide around two hours of daily tutoring as part of their extended day and saw meaningful closure in achievement gaps. 
  • Extended learning time interventions, including weeklong acceleration academies that are staffed with highly effective teachers. Other cities that have done this have seen significant positive effects in math and reading test scores, as well as long term outcomes. 
  • Strong systems for monitoring early student warning signs coupled with strong norms and routines to bolster students’ academic learning and social-emotional health. Systems that track attendance, grades, assignment completion, and more are better able to individualize services and identify the proper interventions. 

The brief warns against strategieslike grade retention and content compressionthat shift student learning and can have some potential adverse long-term consequences for students. 


All Minnesota students will have faced some learning disruption over the past year. With projections estimating that students will have lost between one-third to half of what they would have learned in a normal school year, it’s imperative that all schools use diagnostic or screener assessments to measure where students are. Then, using that data, schools must communicate areas for catch-up and growth to students and families and use research-based interventions to meet students where they are and accelerate learning. 
Read the full report

3. COVID-19 and Student Learning in the United States: The Hurt Could Last a Lifetime 

McKinsey and Company, June 2020

McKinsey analyzed the potential long-term damage that COVID-19 related school closures will have on students and the US economy. Using statistical modeling and academic studies, McKinsey looked at three scenarios for a return to in-person learning—fall 2020, January 2021, and fall 2021—amongst three different groups of students. For all three scenarios, their projections found that learning loss will be greatest amongst low-income, Black, and Latino students. In addition to the learning loss, the report found that COVID-19 closures will also likely increase high school dropout rates for those student groups. 

The authors also noted that the negative impacts of learning loss may extend beyond the pandemic due to the current and forthcoming economic stressors on state budgets, noting: “Cuts to K–12 education are likely to hit low-income and racial- and ethnic-minority students disproportionately, and that could further widen the achievement gap.”

The report also estimated that the economic impact of learning loss and higher dropout rates translates into an estimated impact of the current K-12 student cohort losing $110 billion in annual earnings, which has significant negative long-term implications. The report ended with a call to action to: 1) provide teachers with the support they need to effectively advance students’ social-emotional needs and 2) ensure that all students have devices and the internet. 


These findings align with other projections, making it clear that we need to take COVID’s academic impact seriously. It’s important that all schools and districts have clear plans for supporting students in the fall and beyond. In the short term, this means districts and charter schools must also ensure comparable rigor across different schooling models, and should strongly consider offering limited, prioritized in-person services to meet the needs of younger learners, students with special needs, English Learners, and those who face barriers to distance learning at home. 
Read the full analysis

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