Pandemic is putting more kids at risk of not learning to read

Middle-of-year data from Amplify’s mCLASS® confirms youngest students losing most due to school disruptions

(Brooklyn, NY – March 1, 2021) Amplify, a publisher of next-generation curriculum and assessment programs, released a research brief today on middle-of-school-year K-5 reading data, revealing learning losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic, especially in Grades K and 1 and among Black and Hispanic students.

While more students in all elementary grades and demographic groups have fallen behind, the COVID-related reading losses are concentrated in kindergarten and first grade and disproportionately among Black and Hispanic students in those grades. Compared to last year, there are now twice as many Black kindergarten students at great risk for not learning to read.

The opportunities to learn that students have lost due to COVID may have life-long consequences if they are not provided with additional instructional support. Several research studies show that absent such additional support, there is nearly a 90 percent chance that a poor reader in first grade will remain a poor reader.

“Given this data, we encourage districts and schools to think about a comprehensive and coherent two-year plan to overcome these gaps,” said Larry Berger, Amplify chief executive officer. “If we take an all-hands-on-deck approach, use research-based practices, and provide plenty of support for educators, we can catch these students up and help them grow into confident, joyful readers.”

“Students will need a double dose of strong core foundational skills instruction — current grade-level instruction as well as missing instruction — and some students will need additional intervention,” said Susan Lambert, chief academic officer, elementary humanities at Amplify. “Addressing lost instruction will require a deep commitment and will likely involve changes to scheduling and staffing. These efforts will support students as they catch up and grow into the strongest readers they can be.”

The analysis compared mCLASS with DIBELS 8th Edition benchmark data from the middle of the school year 2019–20 and 2020–21 school years. Approximately 400,000 students in a matched set of over 1,400 schools in 41 states are represented.

The number of students assessed in the 2020–21 cohort is similar to the number in the 2019–20 cohort; as a percent of the prior cohort, the current year’s numbers are approximately 90 percent, which implies an attrition rate of 10 percent, assuming that enrollment for both years was identical. That said, the differences could reflect changes in enrollment, attendance issues at time of assessment, and changes in assessment practices (some students, excluded here, have received only partial assessments).

The data was collected using the mCLASS platform, which automates the data collection of DIBELS (Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills). DIBELS is a widely used series of short tests that assess K-8 literacy developed by the University of Oregon. DIBELS is an observational assessment, collected by teachers interacting directly with students one-on-one, either live or over video. DIBELS is typically administered three times a year (beginning, middle, and end of year), and is used to identify reading difficulty, monitor progress, and inform instruction, especially for struggling readers.

About Amplify

A pioneer in K–12 education since 2000, Amplify is leading the way in next-generation curriculum and assessment. Our captivating core and supplemental programs in ELA, math, and science engage all students in rigorous learning and inspire them to think deeply, creatively, and for themselves. Our formative assessment products turn data into practical instructional support to help all students build a strong foundation in early reading and math. All of our programs provide teachers with powerful tools that help them understand and respond to the needs of every student. Today, Amplify serves more than seven million students in all 50 states.

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