When schools shut down: How education interruptions can hurt student achievement

The Journalist's Resource

Projecting the Potential Impact of COVID-19 School Closures on Academic Achievement
Kuhfeld, Megan; et al. Working Paper No. 20-226 from Brown University’s Annenberg Institute for School Reform, May 2020.

This working paper predicted U.S. public school students would likely start the 2020-21 school year having learned 37% to 50% of what they ordinarily would have learned in math had schools remained open. “In some grades, students may come back close to a full year behind in math,” write the authors, from the University of Virginia, Brown University and the nonprofit education research organization NWEA

The authors estimated that, on average, kids likely would begin the fall 2020 semester with 63% to 68% of the language arts knowledge they would have gained in a typical school year. Not all students would lose ground, however, according to preliminary estimates. The authors predicted the top one-third of students would continue to make gains in reading despite education interruptions.

If that happened, teaching might be more challenging in the fall, they note. “Students will likely return not only with lower achievement (on average), but with a wider range of academic skills that may require teachers to further differentiate instruction,” writes the research team, led by NWEA research scientist Megan Kuhfeld.