Journal article

Test score patterns across three COVID-19-impacted school years

July 2022

Published in:

Educational Researcher.

By: Megan Kuhfeld, James Soland, Karyn Lewis


The COVID-19 pandemic has been a seismic and ongoing disruption to K–12 schooling. Using test scores from 5.4 million U.S. students in Grades 3–8, we tracked changes in math and reading achievement across the first 2 years of the pandemic. Average math test scores in the fall of 2021 in Grades 3–8 were .20–.27 standard deviation (SD) lower relative to same-grade peers in the fall of 2019, while reading test scores decreased by .09–.18 SD. Achievement gaps between students in low-poverty and high-poverty elementary schools grew by .10–.20 SD, primarily during the 2020–2021 school year. Achievement disparities by student race/ethnicity also widened substantively. Observed declines are more substantial than during other recent school disruptions, such as those due to natural disasters.

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