The state of learning loss: 7 takeaways from the latest data

Writing for Chalkbeat, Matt Barnum explores the takeaways from the latest data on pandemic learning loss. Excerpts from the piece appear below: 

In the last year, students in younger grades have recovered between 15% and 35% of the learning they had lost, according to data released by the testing group NWEA.

That’s the good news, particularly after a tumultuous school year that featured frequent staffing shortages, behavioral challenges, and student absences.

The bad news is that students — particularly low-income, Black, and Hispanic students — remain far behind where they would be if not for the pandemic. Recovery has been anemic or nonexistent in middle school, NWEA finds. “At least the bleeding appears to have stopped, and we see some evidence that we’re closing those gaps ever so minimally,” said Karyn Lewis, an NWEA researcher. But at this pace, she said, it will take years for students to fully recover. “That timeline is pretty alarming.”

In addition to the latest NWEA results, Chalkbeat reviewed a host of academic data released by states and testing companies this spring and summer. Here’s what it all tells us about how American students are faring.

  1. Schools and students have begun digging out of the learning loss hole — but they still have a long way to go.
  2. Older students may be recovering more slowly.
  3. Gaps by race and poverty level are still worse than before the pandemic.
  4. Learning loss recovery efforts may be paying off, though it’s impossible to say what exactly is working.
  5. There are likely lingering effects of remote schooling.
  6. These test scores probably do matter.
  7. The data we have is imperfect, though we’ll get better information soon.

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