NWEA, a non-profit research organization that focuses on student performance, released a preliminary study on the impact the pandemic has had on students across the country so far.
The report shows that reading performance among students this fall is around the same as it was one year ago, before students were forced to adapt to learning from home and hybrid structures. Math performance, however, is down about five to 10 percentage points, the study shows.
"Some takeaways from the data that supposedly reflect positive outcomes or ideas that COVID has not had such a negative impact, I think we have to be very careful about that," said Dr. Ginni Fair, dean of the college of education at Northern Kentucky University.
Fair cautions against taking the findings as pure evidence there hasn't been any backsliding in education. Researchers involved in the study acknowledge they're missing a significant portion of students they normally test.
"Likely reasons behind why those students were not included in this data set are that they don't have the access to the technology, that they aren't engaging in their classrooms," said Fair.
Those students, Fair said, are likely the ones struggling to keep up, so the study could be skewed due to a lack of data from that demographic of students. The data also suggest Black, Hispanic and poor students were hurt the most, but researchers said it's too early to draw definite conclusions along racial or economic lines.
The study included 4.4 million public school students in grades 3-8 across 46 states overall.
Fair said the response from school districts in the Tri-State has been good, and she pointed out that many have programs and services intended to support students' emotional needs as well as their academic ones, as they struggle with isolation through the pandemic.
"In some ways, I think it has been a shining example of the commitment, the flexibility, the preparation, the professionalism," Fair said.
Fair added that the role of school districts goes far beyond just academics: How schools meet social and emotional needs during the pandemic is crucial and also needs to be taken into account toward their success overall, something the NWEA study doesn't examine conclusively.