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News from Mathnasium of Columbus Bradley Park

COVID-19 school closures and the devastating impact on student achievement

Apr 17, 2020

If a two-month absence from structured learning results in a summer slide, will losing six months of classroom instruction lead to the COVID-19 avalanche?

Dr. Megan Kuhfeld and Dr. Beth Tarasawa of the Northwest Evaluation Association released a short study on Thursday saying the impacts of early March school closures are likely to be more drastic in math than in reading, particularly if schools don’t reopen.

Kuhfeld and Tarasawa analyzed past research into the summer slide. While there is still debate over the severity of learning loss over the summer months, the researchers said there are consistent trend lines across dozens of studies that show declines tend to be steeper for math than for reading and the extent of the loss increases in the upper grades. The study released Thursday uses the past research in combination with a national sample of five million students in third through eighth grades who took MAP Growth tests in 2017-18.

That allowed the researchers to ascertain a typical growth trajectory for students who completed a standard-length school year and then to make projections for what may happen in two scenarios for longer school closures. The COVID-19 slide scenario the researchers used showed patterns of academic setbacks typical of summers throughout an extended closure. A COVID-19 slowdown scenario was also used in which students maintained the same level of academic achievement they had when schools were closed.


“Preliminary COVID slide estimates suggest students will return in fall 2020 with roughly 70% of the learning gains in reading relative to a typical school year,” Kuhfeld and Tarasawa wrote. “However, in mathematics, students are likely to show much smaller learning gains, returning with less than 50% of the learning gains and in some grades, nearly a full year behind what we would observe in normal conditions.”


The researchers also note that those learning loss projections may be worse because they don’t factor in additional issues that could be created by COVID-19 school closures. Kuhfeld and Tarasawa wrote that children from more affluent families are more likely to have the financial resources, stable employment and flexible work from home and childcare arrangements to retain knowledge than families who are renting their housing, working in low-pay fields that are hardest hit by the economic impacts and experiencing higher rates of food insecurity and family instability.

“Nevertheless, these preliminary forecasts parallel many education leaders’ fears: missing school for a prolonged period will likely have major impacts on student achievement come fall 2020,” Kuhfeld and Tarasawa wrote. “The COVID-19 crisis is a call to action for practitioners and policy makers alike. Once schools are back in session, we must be prepared to support students, many of whom will likely be behind academically.”

Among the researchers’ recommendations to help students when they do eventually return to school is the need to provide resources and support to families by making sure students and families have access to appropriate, engaging mathematics and reading materials, instruction and support during coronavirus closures. The researchers also suggest that educators will need data to help students, which is difficult because many such tests have been cancelled.

What is Mathnasium Doing To Help?

Mathnasium has always been dedicated to the personalized development of all students no matter where they start. The Columbus Bradley Park location is running remote online instruction programs. Students continue to receive personalized material and one-on-one instruction every session to help keep students on track both in school and in their personal math goals.

Mathnasium has been developing and testing @home for three years. We are are offering summer programs to support all students and minimize the affect of the COVID slide. We assess each student's position and develop a personalized plan to fit the needs of the child. Mathnasium of Columbus Bradley Park is dedicated to supporting all of our local school districts!