by Dr. Terry Stoops
Director of the Center for Effective Education, John Locke Foundation
In March, the Office of Learning Recovery and Acceleration at the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction published the first analysis of public school learning loss in the state.
“COVID-19 Impact Analysis of Lost Instructional Time” is a sobering report. No student subgroup emerged from the pandemic unscathed. Instead, researchers found “a negative impact for all students, for all grades, for almost every subject (except English II).” Even Academically and Intellectually Gifted students, particularly those in middle school, fell behind academically.
The initial report conveyed learning loss in terms of effect sizes, which is the standard measure used by social scientists. Today, the Office of Learning Recovery and Acceleration published an analysis of learning loss in terms of months of learning. This will help the public understand the severity of the issue that North Carolina Association of Educators (NCAE) President Tamika Walker Kelly called a “false construct.”
As the above graph indicates, middle and high school students would need an additional school year (or more) to reach pre-pandemic levels of math performance. Fortunately, the damage was less severe in English language arts (ELA). These estimates do not reflect learning during the 2021-22 school year, so students may have started to make up ground as schools implemented remediation and other measures.