Learning during COVID-19: Initial findings on students’ reading and math achievement and growth

Research Rundown Issue: December '20
Publisher: Collaborative for Student Growth
Date Published: November '20


Researchers used assessment data from nearly 4.4 million students in grades 3-8 to analyze the impact COVID-19 had on reading and math achievement. The most concerning findings were in math, where achievement was 5 to 10 percentile points lower this year than in 2019. Reading outcomes were relatively flat—but despite scores staying constant in the aggregate, scores declined for Black and Latino students in the upper elementary grades. While researchers cautioned against making definitive conclusions about student performance across racial groups due to the lower number of students who took the 2020 assessments, it flags an important area to watch as states and districts develop interventions. Notably, one in four students who took the assessments in fall 2019 didn’t take the fall 2020 assessments, with a sizable proportion being students of color and low-income students.

Why This Matters in Minnesota

In spring of 2019, Minnesota canceled our annual statewide test (the MCAs), and we recently learned that the national NAEP test, which is used to provide comparisons across states, will also be postponed due to COVID-19. This leaves a large gap in data for educators, families, and policymakers, making it hard to know where students are, which research-based interventions and acceleration tactics to use, how resources should be equitably allocated, and how to plan for recovery. And our fall learning plan analysis found that only two districts mentioned offering a local diagnostic assessment to measure where students are and what their greatest learning needs will be. Only four mentioned addressing learning loss at all, with only general outlines for action. 

This national data tells us there are trends we must explore to effectively recover and accelerate learning. Is math the greatest learning need? How should we tailor an effective response on literacy? And how will we know what is working? Minnesota policymakers must commit to gathering actionable data on whether students are on track with state standards to develop an effective plan for recovery. 

Read the full report