Exams show 3 key impacts in students’ COVID rebound

Rural students improved the most between fall and winter assessments
By: | April 20, 2021
Middle school students appear to have experienced some of the biggest academic impacts during COVID. (AdobeStock)Middle school students appear to have experienced some of the biggest academic impacts during COVID. (AdobeStock)

The achievement impact of COVID is shrinking in many grades, according to one company’s assessments of 3.8 million students.

Reading and math growth during the first half of the 2020–2021 school year came closer to expected levels in Renaissance’s comparison of fall and winter results.

Students in grades 1–8 who took the Star Early Literacy, Star Reading or Star Math exams scored about 2 points behind pre-COVID expectations in reading and 6 points behind in math.

Those results are close to expectations for reading and about four to seven weeks behind in math, according to the winter edition of Renaissance’s “How Kids Are Performing” report.

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Some specific findings of the report include the following:

1. Black, Hispanic, American Indian and Alaska Native students are experiencing more substantial impacts: These students lost more ground in math and reading than did white or Asian students.

2. Middle school students experienced bigger academic impacts: Sixth-graders were further behind than students in the earlier grades while seventh- and eighth-graders were furthest behind pre-pandemic expectations.

At the elementary level, students in grades 1–3 and 5 met expectations for reading but fourth-graders were still behind typical achievement.

3. Rural schools are adapting: Rural students improved the most on Renaissance’s fall and winter assessments. While rural and suburban students met expectations in math, students in urban schools were farther behind.

Regardless of locale, all schools were performing similarly in reading.

“We were pleased to see many students making typical school-year progress despite shifting instructional approaches this year,” said Katie McClarty, vice president of research and design at Renaissance. “That finding and the ability of rural schools to make up ground from the fall to the winter suggests that schools and students can catch up, even if there’s still a lot of work ahead.”