Research brief

Learning during COVID-19: An update on student achievement and growth at the start of the 2021-22 school year

December 2021

By: Karyn Lewis, Megan Kuhfeld


To what extent has the COVID-19 pandemic affected student achievement and growth in reading and math, and which students have been most impacted? As school districts plan, implement, and hone their efforts to support academic recovery, these are critical questions. New NWEA research addresses these questions and provides insight to inform leaders working to support recovery for all students. Using data from 6 million students in grades 3-8 who took MAP Growth assessments in reading and math, this brief examines how gains across the pandemic (from fall 2019 to fall 2021) and student achievement in fall 2021 compare to pre-pandemic trends. The results showed that, on average, both student achievement at the start of the 2021-22 school year and student gains across the pandemic (from fall 2019 to fall 2021) lagged pre-pandemic norms, especially in math. Achievement was lower for all student groups in fall 2021, but with disproportionately high impacts for historically marginalized students and students in high-poverty schools. Growth across the pandemic varied by pre-pandemic achievement status: higher achievers made gains that were more consistent with projected normative growth, whereas lower-achieving students were more likely to fall short of growth projections.

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