NWEA, Center for Education Policy Research at Harvard University, and CALDER at the American Institutes for Research Announce New Initiative to Help Examine District COVID-19 Recovery Efforts

Research designed to rapidly inform school district decisions as they choose and implement student academic recovery interventions

Portland, Ore., Cambridge., MA and Washington D.C., October 7, 2021 — This school year education systems are facing unprecedented challenges related to supporting students’ academic recovery in the wake of COVID-19. In response, school districts across the nation are implementing a variety of new programs and interventions to help students catch up, such as tutoring, after-school programs, and vacation academies. Understanding the efficacy of these various interventions will be key to ensuring students’ recovery from COVID-19 impacts.

To help support this effort, NWEA — a not-for-profit, research and educational services provider serving K-12 students — in partnership with researchers at the Center for Education Policy Research (CEPR) at Harvard University and CALDER at the American Institutes for Research (AIR), today announced a joint research project with a consortium of school districts across the United States that will examine student achievement and learning gains in connection to the COVID-19 recovery programs.

“There’s no doubt that the pandemic disruptions to learning hit hard, and with students already well into the current school year, time is of the essence as we address their needs. Rapid research projects such as this one can provide immediate insight and critical learnings that districts can implement immediately,” said Dr. Beth Tarasawa, Executive Vice President of Research at NWEA. “This important research could critically inform district decisions regarding their own program offerings as well as state and federal policies regarding recovery programs for years to come.”

“School districts have never had so many students so far behind.  As with anything new, it is unlikely that the interventions they have in place now will allow all students to catch up,” says Dr. Thomas Kane, faculty director of the Center for Education Policy Research at Harvard University. “Given the timing of state tests, this project is likely to be the only evidence schools will see in time to adjust their programs for next fall, when they’ll be spending the remaining federal dollars for COVID catchup.  Literally, billions of dollars and millions of children could be affected by these findings.”

“This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to collectively learn which interventions most help students recover academically,” said Dan Goldhaber, CALDER Director and Vice President at AIR. “CALDER is pleased to collaborate with school districts to provide rigorous evidence that will be immediately relevant to policymakers.”

The research, which is being implemented in two phases, will first analyze achievement and growth trends in math and reading during the pandemic compared to the most complete school year, 2018-19, as well as national trends. This will enable the participating districts to better understand how their achievement and growth trends compare to other districts across the nation, and set goals and track progress with a broader understanding of the current educational landscape in the United States.

The second phase of the research will focus on the current (2021-2022) school year, and will leverage district-provided programmatic information to evaluate achievement and growth outcomes across different types of programs and recovery interventions. Research findings will be shared with the program participants throughout the year to provide districts with the opportunity to not only target their programs to address the effects of the COVID-19 disruption on student learning, but also to measure and maximize the impact of these programs going forward.


This research initiative is being supported in part by multiple generous funders, including Kenneth C. Griffin.


About the Center for Education Policy Research at Harvard University

The Center for Education Policy Research at Harvard University, based at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, seeks to transform education through quality research and evidence. CEPR and its partners believe all students will learn and thrive when education leaders make decisions using facts and findings, rather than untested assumptions. Learn more at cepr.harvard.edu.


Contact: Jackie Kerstetter, Principal & Owner, Alessi Communications & Design, jackie@alessicommunication.com or 814.440.2299


About CALDER at the American Institutes for Research

Established in 1946, the American Institutes for Research (AIR) is a nonpartisan, not-for-profit organization that conducts behavioral and social science research and delivers technical assistance both domestically and internationally in the areas of education, health and the workforce. AIR’s work is driven by its mission to generate and use rigorous evidence that contributes to a better, more equitable world. With headquarters in Arlington, Virginia, AIR has offices across the U.S. and abroad. For more information, visit www.air.org. The National Center for the Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Education Research (CALDER) is a joint effort of AIR and scholars at eleven universities. CALDER research uses longitudinal data from multiple states and districts to examine how policies and practices impact student outcomes over a number of years. CALDER researchers mobilize quickly to study how current and recent events affect real-time educational and social outcomes. For more information, visit CalderCenter.org.


Contact: Jessica de Barros, Director of Policy, Practice, and Outreach, CALDER at AIR, jdebarros@air.org or 202-403-6220


About NWEA

NWEA® (formerly known as Northwest Evaluation Association) is a mission-driven, not-for-profit organization that supports students and educators in more than 146 countries through research, assessment solutions, policy and advocacy services, professional learning and school improvement services that fight for equity, drive classroom impact and push for systemic change in our educational communities. Visit NWEA.org to learn more about how we’re partnering with educators to help all kids learn.


Contact: Simona Beattie, Sr. Manager, Public Relations at NWEA, simona.beattie@nwea.org or 971.361.9526