New study gives first look at the pandemic’s effect on education

Education

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Researchers behind a new national study are “optimistic” about the effects virtual learning has on children forced out of classrooms, but the researchers themselves say the data isn’t complete.

The “positive” research is announced as many local parents tell 8News they’re still struggling to keep their kids on track at home.

The study, conducted by the NWEA, looked at 4.4 million kids in grades third through eighth across the country and compared recent standardized MAP test scores to those of 2019.

It finds that reading scores are staying about the same but says students “growth in math is slower than a typical year.” Average scores for math were between 5 and 10 percentile points lower for students this year as compared to same-grade students last year.

“In almost all grades, most students made some learning gains in both reading and math since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, gains in math were lower on average in fall 2020 than prior years, resulting in more students falling behind relative to their prior standing,” the study states.

The study stated roughly a quarter of the nation’s students didn’t end up taking this Fall’s standardized test that was sampled. One of those kids is Chesterfield student Anna Klein. 8News spoke with her mother, Emily Klein, who says both of her kids are struggling learning from home.

The researchers say the results are better than some may have expected, but warn they may not be as rosy as they appear.

“While there’s some good news here, we want to stress that not all students are represented in the data, especially from our most marginalized communities. This increases the urgency to better connect to students and families who may be weathering the COVID storm very differently,” said NWEA researcher Beth Tarasawa in a news release accompanying the study.

It stated that roughly a quarter of the nation’s students didn’t end up taking this Fall’s standardized test that was sampled. One of those kids is Chesterfield student Anna Klein. 8News spoke with her mother, Emily Klein, who says both of her kids are struggling learning from home.

“I want to be their supporter but every day you’re torn with do I go to work to make money or do I stay home to try and support my kids,” she said.

Her story is one that many parents can relate to. She’s stressed, frustrated, and worried for her kids getting behind in class.

“When you see two kids that love school, and they hate it now,” she said. “Here are these kids that do well in school and are now failing.”

Considering the study shows a dip in math scores, Klein said thankfully, math is her kids’ specialty.

“When they ask us questions, we don’t know how to do it. It’s not just it’s taught a different way, we haven’t done it in 20 years,” she said.

The mom has issues with standardized testing as a whole.

“It doesn’t mean they actually understand it. It means they memorized it for the test and they will forget it shortly thereafter. So I don’t think it’s an accurate assessment of their knowledge by any means,” she said.

This study is the clearest picture yet of how the pandemic is affecting education. More studies are expected to be conducted both nationally and locally that should give us a better picture of how students are doing.

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