Research brief

Learning during COVID-19: Reading and math achievement in the 2020-2021 school year

July 2021


To what extent did COVID-19 disruptions affect student achievement in the 2020-2021 school year, and which students have been most affected? As school districts plan for post-pandemic recovery, these are critical questions. New NWEA research aims to provide insight to inform leaders working to support recovery for all students: using data from 5.5 million students in grades 3-8 who took MAP Growth assessments in reading and math, this brief examines how gains across the 2020-21 school year and student achievement in spring 2021 compare to pre-pandemic trends. The results showed that, on average, students across most grades made reading and math gains in 2020-21, but that students’ outcomes during the pandemic-affected school year were lower across multiple dimensions. Reading and math gains in 2020-2021 were diminished compared to pre-pandemic trends, especially in the latter half of the year; and students ended the year with lower achievement compared to a typical year, with larger declines relative to historical trends in math than in reading. American Indian and Alaska Native, Black, and Latinx students, as well as students in high-poverty schools were disproportionately impacted, particularly in the elementary grades we studied.

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