Several studies within the past year have shown just how detrimental remote learning has been to academic progress during the coronavirus pandemic, especially for students already disadvantaged by racial and economic achievement gaps.
Harvard University’s Center for Education Policy Research, for example, looked at testing data from fall 2019 through fall 2021 of 2 million students in 10,000 schools across 49 states, including Washington D.C. Compared to testing data from the two years before the pandemic, its findings showed that remote learning, including hybrid models, was one of the primary causes of widening academic achievement gaps.
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Remote learning is only as effective as the resources a student can access, particularly for younger kids. High-performing fourth-grade students reported having greater access to resources like a computer, a quiet place to work, and a teacher to help them compared to low-performing students, according to a separate study conducted by the National Assessment of Educational Progress. Students in homes where parental educational attainment was less than a high school diploma, as well as those from the lowest income quarter, were most likely to have home internet access only through a smartphone.
As a result of different regional COVID-19 policies and restrictions, achievement gaps varied but were most severe in states with longer durations of remote instruction. Additionally, schools made up of a high percentage of students from low-income families spent an extra 5.5 weeks, on average, learning remotely during 2020-21 than wealthier schools, and fell further behind because of it. While achievement losses still persist among schools that went back to in-person learning, achievement gaps were not worsened like they were among remote students.
The NAEP analyzes exams administered by the Department of Education to fourth and eighth graders as a common measure of academic achievement across the country in math and reading, among other subjects. Its 2022 analysis found that performance decreased across the board. Nationally, average fourth-grade math scores fell five points since 2019, while eighth-grade math scores dropped eight points. Average reading scores for both fourth and eighth grades fell three points.
To put the 20-year math and reading lows into context, HeyTutor analyzed the 2022 National Assessment of Educational Progress data from the DOE’s National Center for Education Statistics.
Although school districts are only required to allocate 20% of their American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funding to academic recovery efforts, the Harvard study concludes that some will need to spend all of their aid to combat the effects of lost instructional time and close the achievement gap widened by remote learning.
Tennessee by the numbers: 4th Grade
- 76% at basic level, 36% proficient
- 2022 average score: 236 (8 point increase from 2003)
- 59% at basic level, 30% proficient
- 2022 average score: 214 (2 point increase from 2003)
Tennessee by the numbers: 8th Grade
- 60% at basic level, 25% proficient
- 2022 average score: 272 (4 point increase from 2003)
- 67% at basic level, 28% proficient
- 2022 average score: 258 (no change from 2003)
National average scores: 4th Grade
- 74% at basic level, 35% proficient
- 2022 average score: 235 (1 point increase from 2003)
- 61% at basic level, 32% proficient
- 2022 average score: 216 (no change from 2003)
National average scores: 8th Grade
- 60% at basic level, 26% proficient
- 2022 average score: 273 (3 point decrease from 2003)
- 68% at basic level, 29% proficient
- 2022 average score: 259 (2 point decrease from 2003)
States with the highest average scores in 2022:
- Math: New Hampshire (243)
- Reading: Massachusetts (227)
- Math: Massachusetts (284)
- Reading: New Jersey (270)
States with the lowest average scores in 2022:
- Math: New Mexico (221)
- Reading: New Mexico (202)
- Math: New Mexico (259)
- Reading: New Mexico (248)
This story originally appeared on HeyTutor and was produced and distributed in partnership with Stacker Studio.