State of Student Learning 2022

On the Road to Recovery

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More students are on grade level this year than last year, yet they are still behind historical averages.

In spring 2022, student achievement in reading and mathematics improved slightly in some grades, but overall, it remains somewhat below pre-pandemic historical averages.

Is Reading Ready to Rebound?

Percentage of Students On Grade Level
Historical
Spring 2021
Spring 2022

In spring 2022, most grades saw some improvements in reading achievement.

In reading, the largest differences occur in Grades 1-3, which are especially critical years for establishing the foundational reading skills necessary for long-term academic success.

Where to Focus for Greater Improvement

While we do see some good news in looking at the data, overall, students are still falling behind pre-pandemic performance. What we observe in the research Keys to Unlocking Success is: Schools that are exceeding expectations have prioritized actions that focus on mindset, data culture, professional practice for teachers, home–school connections, and more.

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Areas of Concern in Foundational Reading

Foundational Skill-Building in Early Elementary School Requires Urgent Focus

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Historical
Spring 2021
Spring 2022

Explicit and systematic phonics instruction is core to the Science of Reading approach. Our research shows that in the foundational reading domain of Phonics, fewer students are on target for meeting grade-level expectations than before the pandemic.

Grade-Level Performance in Middle School Reading Is Stable

45%
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of middle school students are on grade level in reading in spring 2022.

Before the pandemic, 47% of students were on grade level in reading.

Middle school students are close to pre-pandemic levels in reading. However, it is important to note that less than half of middle school students were on grade level before the pandemic.

The question is no longer if or how the pandemic affected student learning, it is if and how [the learning] can recover. It is critical to grow our understanding of what measurable shifts have occurred in student learning as we have more distance from 2020 and more investment in recovery efforts.

Kristen Huff
Vice President of Assessment and Research, Curriculum Associates

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Math Improvements Are Not Sufficient

Percentage of Students On Grade Level
Historical
Spring 2021
Spring 2022

Students did better in spring 2022 than the previous year across all grade levels in mathematics.

Upper-elementary and early middle school students appear to have suffered the greatest setbacks relative to pre-pandemic levels. These are years during which students typically solidify basic mathematics skills in order to move on to more complex equations and abstract reasoning.

On the Plus Side

Grade 4 Students Have Made the Biggest Comeback

16%

Spring 2021

5%

11%

Spring 2022

In spring 2022, 58% of students in Grade 4 were on grade level, which is down 11 percentage points from before the pandemic (i.e., 69% proficient) compared with being down by 16 percentage points in spring 2021 (i.e., 53% proficient), a year-over-year improvement of 5 percentage points.

Critical Mathematics Domains

What to Watch for in Mathematics Performance

Students need support in foundational mathematics more so now than prior to the pandemic.

With fewer students on grade level in Number and Operations and Algebra and Algebraic Thinking, students may need support in high school to master the problem-solving and reasoning skills they need to be successful in  the future.

Number and Operations

Grade 4: Percentage of Students On Grade Level

77% Grade 4
Historical
69% Grade 4
2021
69% Grade 4
2022
Algebra and Algebraic Thinking

Grade 6: Percentage of Students On Grade Level

53% Grade 6
Historical
47% Grade 6
2021
45% Grade 6
2022

Continuing to tell the story of the pandemic’s impact on student learning and schools’ recovery is essential. Our communities, leaders, policy makers, and parents deserve to know how our students are progressing academically and what is working to inform their decisions about how to best support students and teachers.

Tyrone Holmes
Chief Inclusion Officer, Curriculum Associates

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Has the Pandemic Affected All Students in the Same Way?

The latest data confirm that the following groups of students need additional support to not only get back to pre-pandemic performance but to also exceed pre-pandemic performance in order to get to grade level.
  • Students in schools serving a higher proportion of Black and Latino students
  • Students in schools in lower-income neighborhoods
  • Students who were already two or more grade levels behind

In Grades 4–8, Some Students in Historically Marginalized Communities Are Improving

Grade 4 students in majority Latino schools made large comebacks in both reading and mathematics.
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Historical
Spring 2021
Spring 2022
Students in majority Black schools are nearly back to pre-pandemic levels in middle school reading.
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Historical
Spring 2021
Spring 2022
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Some Schools Are Exceeding Expectations

New research highlights more than 300 schools serving students in lower-income zip codes and predominantly Black or Latino students that are exceeding expectations.

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Schools Exceeding Expectations in Reading

32

Schools Exceeding in Both

144

Schools Exceeding Expectations in Mathematics

Schools were identified as exceeding expectations if, on average, students two or more grade levels below grew substantially more than expected from fall to spring during the 2020–2021 academic year—in reading or mathematics—and after accounting for school-level characteristics such as school locale, school median income, or school racial composition.

Of these schools identified, 47% were in low-income communities, 23% served majority students of color, and 17% were located in urban areas, 25% in suburban areas, and 39% in rural areas.

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Spotlight on Success

Schools Outperforming Expectations with Students Who Need the Most Support Are Taking Action in Key Areas

“We will not, and have not, lowered our expectations of what students are able to do . . . it’s shifting the mindset”

Dr. Angelica Cole

Assistant Principal, Excelsior Elementary School

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Cultivate educator mindsets that support student success.

District and school leaders created a culture in which educators take ownership of student learning, set high expectations for students, and believe all students can achieve with the appropriate scaffolding and support.

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Cultivate educator mindsets that support student success.

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Create a culture of data.

District and school leaders cultivated a strong data culture in which teachers and students regularly discuss data, and educators make timely instructional modifications based on student data.

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Create a culture of data.

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Prioritize meeting the needs of the whole child.

District and school leaders addressed the academic, behavioral, social, and emotional needs of all students via instructional interventions, structural changes, and the provision of material resources such as individualized devices, internet access, and meals.

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Prioritize meeting the needs of the whole child.

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Create a school environment that engages and inspires students.

District and school leaders strived to make school a place that students enjoy. By making learning fun and engaging, offering incentives for academic and non-academic performance, and showing students they truly care, educators increased student motivation, effort, and learning.

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Create a school environment that engages and inspires students.

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Enhance teacher practice with more resources and support.

District and school leaders equipped educators with professional development and differentiated learning opportunities, instructional resources, ample time to meet and collaborate with their peers, and guidance and support from instructional coaches to enhance their content knowledge, shift their mindset, and improve their pedagogical practices and classroom management skills.

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Enhance teacher practice with more resources and support.

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Strengthen connections.

District and school leaders encouraged educators to build relationships with families by maintaining open communication, providing resources to support student learning at home, and creating opportunities for families to be involved in their child's learning.

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Strengthen connections.

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Annual report, September 2022
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Read the Full Report

Dive deeper into the data with the comprehensive report, which includes more analysis statistics and insights.

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Executive Summary, September 2022
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Read the Keys to Unlocking Success

Learn about the six promising leadership practices shared by district and school leaders from more than 300 schools that exceeded expectations.