U.S. Students Still Trailing Pre-Covid Learning Levels

July 12, 2023

U.S. students have not returned to pre-Covid pandemic learning levels in math and reading, according to a study released Tuesday by the Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA), a national education research organization.

The study highlights a continuing strain on education by the Covid pandemic, when lockdowns and social distancing led to school closures and remote learning across the U.S.

Evaluation by the NWEA found that test scores from 6.7 million public school students in third through eighth grades had not made the same progress in the 2022-’23 school year as students before the pandemic. 

The study’s co-author, Karyn Lewis cautioned that “we can’t just accept that this is our new reality.”

One silver lining: third graders exhibited above-average growth in both math and English, though Lewis said it was unclear why.

Students from high poverty areas were the most academically harmed by the pandemic, as were traditionally marginalized groups such as Black and Hispanic children.

In 2022 the government allocated nearly $200 billion to address the learning gap. Schools have reportedly used the funding for such efforts as tutoring programs and summer school options.

In December a study by Stanford University found that an extended learning lag could cost each student $70,000 in potential earnings over their lifetime. Overall economic costs from the education losses could total $28 trillion over the rest of this century, according to one Stanford economist.

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