Pandemic-related learning backlog could widen, study finds

TAMPA, Florida (TodayNews) — Despite schools’ best efforts to help students recover from learning losses due to the pandemic, the new numbers don’t look good. A national study found that the learning gap between students before and after the pandemic could widen.

The study, conducted by the national research organization NWEA, analyzed the results of millions of tests. It found that the average student needs an extra four months of school for reading and 4.5 months for math.

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Retiring Hillsborough County Public Schools Superintendent Addison Davis — and superintendents across the country — are blaming COVID.

“This was the tenth grade cohort that had school closed during COVID,” Davis said. “They missed out on so many learning opportunities because of the assignment time in front of highly qualified, experienced teachers.”

Around the time of graduation this May, HCPS estimates that more than 1,000 seniors will not receive their diplomas because they did not pass the correct tests. This is more than 240 last year.

“They’ve been through a lot in the last three years, so we know we want to give them grace,” Davis explained. “But we also want to push them to develop intellectually so they can continue to excel in all core competencies in our classrooms.”

Davis said he expects even fewer students to graduate next year due to stricter test requirements and tuition losses due to COVID.

“So, the reality is that graduation rates across the state will be going down next year,” Davis said. “It’s all because next year will be the real starting point of where we are.”

However, the study showed positive results in a class that had just completed third grade. While previous research has shown that these students are the ones who lose out the most in learning due to COVID, this recent study found that they are doing above average.

This happens when an important deadline looms in the background. By September 2024, schools must spend or commit to spend $190 billion in federal funds to fight the pandemic.

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