NWEA data predicts students could be up to a year behind in math in the fall

UPDATE: April 9, 2020Data released Thursday by NWEA, a nonprofit assessment provider, predicts that because of school closures, some students could be as much as a year behind in math when they start school in the fall, while others would experience a slide more typical of what occurs over the summer. 

Using academic achievement for students in grades 3-8 during a normal school year for comparison, the organization’s researchers estimate the decline in English would not be as drastic. Still, even with schools providing learning during closures, they suggest the “aspects of trauma and the current economic conditions” associated with the health crisis could negatively impact academic outcomes for “populations most historically marginalized.” 

Dive Brief:

  • Almost 90% of parents polled in California and New York say they are concerned their children will fall behind in school because of closures due to the coronavirus pandemic. And more than 80% of parents in both states say their children are bored or understimulated, according to survey results jointly released Wednesday by nonprofits Education Trust and Education Trust-West.
  • The vast majority of parents surveyed, a sample of 1,200 in each state, say schools are doing a good or excellent job of transitioning schools to a remote format. But while more than 90% of parents in both states said having regular contact with their children’s teachers would be helpful, 45% of California parents and 52% of New York parents reported this was currently happening. 
  • Responses also addressed the digital divide, with 43% of parents in New York and 37% of parents in California saying their school has lent them a device for distance learning. Twenty-eight percent of parents in New York and 23% of California parents also say they don’t know how to use the distance learning software provided. 

Dive Insight:

With closures for many students now lasting the rest of the school year, the survey urges states and districts to focus on addressing the needs of students and families facing the most obstacles. “Policymakers will need to shift from crisis management to long-term solutions to ensure education equity is at the forefront of every school, district and state-level decision,” according to a press release on the California results. 

In California, the new data is also part of Education Trust-West’s larger “Education Equity in Crisis” project, which includes recommendations for policymakers and school leaders, such as making distance learning plans publicly available in multiple languages, adopting regulations that state how students’ at-home learning will be measured and planning for summer learning, particularly for “the most vulnerable students.”

Meanwhile on Tuesday, the American Enterprise Institute released initial results from its new COVID-19 Education Response Longitudinal Survey, which complements other efforts to document what it calls “a breathtaking amount of change to the nation’s schools.” Data from the representative sample of 250 districts shows:

  • 82% of the districts were providing meals to students.
  • Around 40% had plans to address students’ access to devices and internet.
  • By March 27, 42% of schools were in districts that “had some sort of education program or offering available.”

The survey also shows districts were least likely to be offering synchronous instruction, which allows “students to engage directly with educators in real time,” but the authors also conclude that given the challenges, districts have mounted a “swift response.” Those results might also look very different now, with some districts just beginning remote instruction in recent days.

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