Education

Learning Loss Greater In School Districts That Stayed Remote Longer, Study Shows

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Reagan Reese Contributor
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School districts that resorted to remote learning during the pandemic took a large learning loss hit, according to Thursday study by a Brown University economist.

K-12 school districts who stayed with remote learning the longest during the pandemic saw a 13% sharper drop in learning losses than schools that returned to in-person learning sooner, according to study by a Brown University economist Emily Oster. The study notes that while there were other factors that resulted in learning losses, remote learning was a “significant contributing factor.” (RELATED: POLL: Most Americans Are Dissatisfied With K-12 Education)

“The past two years have seen enormous test score declines for kids, pretty much no matter how you measure them,” Oster wrote in her report. “These declines were caused, at least in significant part, by school closures. There has been some recovery, but it is variable and incomplete. There is more to be done.”

The study examined school districts during the 2020-2021 school year in 10 different states including Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Virginia and West Virginia.

Nicole Brown, a second grade teacher, sits at a laptop computer with one of her students during a lesson at Carter Traditional Elementary School on January 24, 2022 in Louisville, Kentucky. Students in the district are returning to in-person class after two weeks of Non-Traditional Instruction (NTI) due to staffing issues caused by a surge of the COVID-19 omicron variant. (Photo by Jon Cherry/Getty Images)

Nicole Brown, a second grade teacher, sits at a laptop computer with one of her students during a lesson at Carter Traditional Elementary School on January 24, 2022 in Louisville, Kentucky.  (Photo by Jon Cherry/Getty Images)

A Sept. 1 report from the National Assessment of Educational Progress showed that overall K-12 students lost nearly two decades’ worth of progress in math and reading. Reading scores fell to where they were in 1990 and math scores saw their first-ever decline.

Several school districts, including the school district of Fairfax, Virginia, and the Detroit school district, are estimated to spend millions to make up for the learning losses their students suffered.

“Within nearly all states with available data, the declines in scores were larger in districts with less in-person instruction,” Oster told the Daily Caller News Foundation. “This suggests that remote learning was less effective.

“There is significant variation in the degree to which districts and states have recovered by the end of the 2022 school year. This presents opportunities for broader learning about what approaches are successful for addressing these large losses. As yet, it’s unclear what these lessons are.”
This story has been updated with comment from Emily Oster.

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