LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – Math scores for elementary and middle school students are down some 5 to 10 points since the COVID-19 pandemic forced schools to abruptly switch to remote learning in March, according to a testing nonprofit.
The analysis of data from nearly 4.4 million U.S. students found those in grades 3-8 had lower than average math scores this year compared to previous years while most appear to be progressing at a normal pace in reading.
The study, one of the first significant measures of the pandemic’s impacts on learning, was conducted by Northwest Evaluation Association, a research-based not-for-profit organization that administers standardized testing.
“What we see is that there’s a moderate decline in math scores,” says Jessica McCrory Calarco, an associate professor of sociology at Indiana University. “Reading scores seem pretty much on par what we’ve seen in previous years.”
A testing nonprofit says students are falling behind in one subject more than another. https://t.co/BLbAsJ2kc1
— WJZ | CBS Baltimore (@wjz) December 2, 2020
The NWEA findings, released Dec. 1, show that students scored an average of 5 to 10 percentile points lower in math compared to last year, with students in grades three, four and five experiencing the largest drops.
“Math is different from reading development in that the skills are much more sequential, so if you miss Step A, it’s harder to get to Step B,” Dr. Karyn Lewis, NWEA Research Scientist, told CBS Baltimore.
Calarco says the actual impact of the pandemic on student learning might even be larger than the study indicates.
“Those students who are missing from the data are students that we – that are from disproportionately disadvantaged backgrounds students from low-income families. Students of color,” she tells CBS affiliate WTTV.
“If parents aren’t confident in their own math skills or if they have other demands on their time – it’s going to be so much harder for kids to get the hands-on support that they need to be successful in online learning right now." https://t.co/RUdJOcGGn3
— CBS4 Indy (@CBS4Indy) December 3, 2020
James Dolan, who owns Tutor Doctor Indy, which provides in-person and virtual tutoring to more than 100 struggling students in central Indiana, says he’s getting more requests for help in math and English.
“With math, fewer of our parents, myself included, are equipped to teach somebody math,” he says.
Dolan says the long-lasting impacts of the pandemic on student’s virtual learning has yet to been seen in full effect.
“We need to continue to have these standardized tests and assessments so we can track progress and intervene where we need to,” he tells WTTV.
The NWEA study recommends school districts run their own research on where students are falling behind, so they can tailor resources to those areas.