New Study Shows Pandemic Has Had Low Impact on Student Test Scores

A national study released this month shows that online learning, pushed by the pandemic, has little impact on children’s academic growth.

A new data report by a testing nonprofit Northwest Evaluation Assessment (NWEA) shows that online learning for elementary students has had little impact on children’s reading growth and only some impact on mathematics.

Some key findings in the study include:

  • In fall of 2020, students in grades 3–8 performed similarly in reading to same-grade students in fall 2019, but about 5 to 10 percentile points lower in math.
  • In almost all grades, most students made some learning gains in both reading and math since the COVID-19 pandemic started. However, gains in math were lower on average in fall 2020 than prior years, resulting in more students falling behind relative to their prior standing.
  • This fall, students scored better than NWEA’s projections in reading, while math scores were in line with our projections for grades 4–6 and slightly above our projections in grades 7–8.

Manistee Area Public Schools Superintendent Ronald Stoneman says they had similar findings:

“There was a bit of discrepancy in where we would have anticipated the scores being in a more traditional environment for learning. There was a little discrepancy for sure. We matched that reading and math differential that was in the study, we saw some of that in our data that we received too.”

The data covers nearly 4.4 million US students in grades three through eight.

However, while the data shows that students are doing better than expected, the NWEA says that not all students were represented in the data.

Stoneman says, “Like the study, or the research that was done from the NWEA, we didn’t have all of our students participate in the fall assessment cycle…. We decided to have students come into a safe environment for testing and they did the best they can, but participation was a little bit low.”

However, Stoneman says he’s proud of his students and staff for working through the challenges brought by this pandemic.

“I’m really proud of how hard the students are continuing to work in whichever environment that we’re in at the time, the students are really engaged in making the best efforts that they can to continue their learning,” says Stoneman. “And I’m really proud of our teachers adapting to what students needs are and as they learn from the students in this environment.”