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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Education's 'long Covid' -- students aren't catching up


Photo: Julia M. Cameron/Pexels

Don't call it "learning loss," they said. It's just "unfinished learning." Kids will catch up quickly. They'll be fine.


First through third graders made progress this year, according to new data from NWEA, which tests 6.7 million students nationwide. But upper elementary and middle school students are falling farther behind pre-Covid levels in reading and math, reports Linda Jacobson on The 74.


The average student is four months behind pre-pandemic levels, reports NWEA, which calls is "education's long Covid." Students who'll start ninth grade in the fall are about a year behind pre-Covid levels.

Those new high school students aren't nine months below grade level. They're nine months below the not very good and very unequal achievement levels before schools closed.


"It was shocking" to see the gap between pre- and post-pandemic achievement grow larger this year for fourth through eighth graders, said Karyn Lewis, director of NWEA’s Center for School and Student Progress. She'd expected this to be a catch-up year.

“Behavioral, academic and staffing challenges,” including high chronic absenteeism, may explain the failure of students to catch up, the report said. "We must recognize that the amount of additional schooling required to catch students up cannot be compressed into a one-shot intervention or single school year."


Few students are participating in summer school or tutoring, research shows.

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1 Comment


Bruce Smith
Bruce Smith
Jul 14, 2023

My students in summer tutoring never fell behind, but gradually move farther ahead of even their honors classmates in a highly rated district like Irvine Unified, which should tell you that the effects of the cultures of the homes dwarf those of the schools, a finding reinforced by comparative education worldwide; accordingly, policymakers should gain some humility and recognize that even optimal policies will remain limited in their influence, even if there is considerable room for improvement in even the best environments, as in the United States.

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