The research organization, which has been assessing Pre-K-12 students for 40 years, tracked the academic progress of 6.7 million U.S. public school students in grades 3-8.
The study examined the achievement gap between students in the 2022-23 school year relative to pre-pandemic years, and compared the COVID year student group to pre-pandemic students.
According to the NWEA report, the gap in achievement between the COVID group and their pre-pandemic peers did not shrink for most grades in the 2022-23 school year.
The organization estimated that most students would need an additional 4.5 months of mathematics instruction and 4.1 months of reading instruction to close this gap and return to the pre-COVID status quo.
“COVID-19 may no longer be an emergency, but we are very much still dealing with the fallout from the crisis. These data reiterate that recovery will not be linear, easy, or quick and we cannot take our foot off the gas pedal,” said Dr. Karyn Lewis, co-author of the study and director of the Center for School and Student Progress at NWEA.
“Disappointing as these results may be, it’s important not to lose sight of the fact that things would likely be so much worse without the enduring work of educators and schools to support students in this moment,” Dr. Lewis said.
Progress toward recovery was most delayed in Hispanic and Black students, which the study attributes to those communities being disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The NWEA recommends a series of policy initiatives to help students return to pre-pandemic achievement levels, including increased investments in schools, expansion of instructional time and communicating the importance of academic recovery with families.
“Pandemic disruptions have been persistent and unprecedented, and, not surprisingly, so have their impacts on student achievement. School and district leaders have been doing a heroic job in identifying local needs and deploying evidence-based strategies to address them. But scaling interventions takes significant time and resources, and we know the hard work of educators often takes years to show up in test results,” said Lindsay Dworkin, SVP of Policy and Government Affairs at NWEA.
“One year from the expiration of the federal education relief funds, which have supported so much of their vital efforts thus far, policymakers and leaders throughout the education ecosystem must renew their commitment to recovery. Our students deserve the sustained resources and urgency necessary to ensure they have the opportunity to reach their full potential,” Dworkin said.