Prepare Now for a a Precipitous ‘COVID Slide’ Next Year

NWEA has announced projections that suggest current school closures due to the COVID-19 global pandemic could result in dramatic learning loss for students. The research, conducted by NWEA’s Collaborative for Student Growth Research Center, leverages previous NWEA research on summer learning loss and uses a national sample of over five million students in grades 3-8 who took MAP® Growth™ assessments in 2017-2018, to estimate potential impacts of the COVID-19 related school closures. 

The research compared academic achievement trajectories during a typical school year for grades 3 – 8 where no disruption to learning took place, to two scenarios for the closure: a COVID-19 slide, in which students showed patterns of learning loss typical of summers throughout an extended closure, and COVID-19 slowdown, in which students maintained the same level of academic achievement they had when schools were closed (modeled for simplicity as beginning March 15) until schools reopened.

Preliminary estimates suggest impacts may be larger in mathematics than in reading, and that students may return in fall 2020 with less than 50% of typical learning gains, and in some grades, nearly a full year behind what we would expect in this subject under normal conditions.

For reading, the outlook is a bit more optimistic. However, forecasts suggest some students will return in fall with about 70% of the learning gains relative to a typical year.

Chad Aldeman, a senior associate partner at Bellwether Education Partners, says research suggests that if left unaddressed, any COVID-19 slide could have a lasting impact. Aldeman cites a paper that found teacher strikes in Argentina had a negative impact on the incomes of students, now in their 30s, who had lost 80 to 90 days of school as children. Those deficits extended as well to the children of those students. That research also suggests that lost learning in early grades has the biggest impact.

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