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Unpacking Student Learning Loss Amid the Pandemic

The pandemic has left devastating effects on children’s learning in Michigan and across the country.

Children in a classroom.

New state and national data reveal the devastating effects of the pandemic on children’s learning, reinforcing the urgent need to work toward recovery and acceleration for all of Michigan's students.

Recent National Assessment for Educational Progress (NAEP) data shows the performance of 9-year-olds in math and reading across the nation dropped to levels from two decades ago. 

This NAEP data assesses basic skills among 9-year-olds, comparing that age group over long periods of time. NAEP results encompassing fourth and eighth graders in each state will be released this fall.

The decline in scores for 9-year-olds spanned across almost all races and income levels.

According to new state data, roughly 5,650 Michigan students received reading scores low enough that they could be required to repeat third grade.

The report from Michigan State University’s Education Policy Innovation Collaborative (EPIC) reveals that the pandemic had a devastating impact on Michigan’s schools and students, but the impact was far greater for underserved students.

Key findings from EPIC’s report include:

  • In 2021, 41.5% of third graders statewide scored at least proficient in math on Michigan’s standardized test, known as the M-STEP, a decline of 5.2 percentage points from 2019, the last time the test was given before COVID-19.
  • 5.8% of the tested population (5.6% of all third-grade students, or 5,628 students) are eligible for retention based on their 3rd-grade English language arts (ELA) M-STEP scores, one percentage point higher than in 2020.
  • 15% of Black third-grade students are eligible for retention based on their scores. Based on the data, Black students are 4.5 times more likely to be retention-eligible than their White peers.
  • 7% of Latinx students are eligible for retention based on their scores.
  • 9% of students from lower-income households are eligible for retention based on their scores.
  • 11% of students with disabilities are eligible for retention based on their scores.
  • Nearly 18% of students in districts that have previously scored in the bottom quartile of ELA achievement are retention eligible relative to 2% of students in the highest-scoring districts.

Even before the pandemic, Michigan’s performance in early literacy on the NAEP has shown little to no improvement relative to other states.

Mid-pandemic assessments reveal students who live in households that earn lower wages, students of color and students with disabilities experienced larger negative impacts to their learning compared to their White peers.

Next week, CMF members are invited to join the Governor’s Office of Foundation Liaison (OFL) for a briefing with Education Trust Midwest's (ETM) Amber Arellano as she details ETM’s recommendations to transform Michigan’s K-12 schools including weighted, equitable financing; data and information; school accountability; and teacher recruitment and retention.

Want more?

Read more about the recent National Assessment for Educational Progress data.

Read more about EPIC’s report.