While K–3 students are beginning to recover from COVID instructional loss, more students are still at risk of not learning to read than pre-pandemic

The nation’s Black and Hispanic students are increasingly the ones with the greatest remaining COVID-related learning losses.

(Brooklyn, NY – August 3, 2021) Amplify, a publisher of next-generation curriculum and assessment programs, released a research brief on end-of-year K–3 reading data, revealing many students have begun to recover from lost literacy instruction due to COVID-19. However, there are still more students at risk of not learning to read than pre-pandemic, especially students who are Black or Hispanic.

As many students returned to the classroom in the spring, schools made progress in reducing the number of students who were at the greatest risk of not learning how to read. While these gains are important for overcoming instructional loss, the percentage of students at risk of not reading across grades K–3 is still higher than the 2019–20 school year due to pandemic disruptions. Moreover, these remaining instructional losses have widened the national gaps in early reading skills between Black and Hispanic students and their white counterparts.

“To catch up to the learning levels of pre-pandemic cohorts of students, we must accelerate learning. For that, students require instruction that targets their needs more than ever. Teachers should be empowered by quality assessments to understand the specific areas in which students could benefit from support,” said Gina Biancarosa, professor in the Department of Special Education and Clinical Sciences in the College of Education at the University of Oregon. “Once their unique strengths and needs have been identified, we can spend time supporting students in targeted while continuing to deliver grade-level core instruction. Working in tandem, targeted and grade-level instruction can reach individual students equitably and help to make up for the lost opportunities to learn of the last year plus.”

“The age group in which our research was conducted is critical. We know that the older the students are, the longer it is going to take to catch them up,” said Susan Lambert, chief academic officer of elementary humanities at Amplify. “Based on these findings, schools and districts should anticipate recovery taking one to two years. Along with grade-level, core instruction, monitoring is essential to track individual student progress and provide the personalized support that will help all students become confident readers.”

The report highlights the effects of COVID-19 disruptions by comparing Amplify mCLASS® with DIBELS® 8th Edition benchmark data from the 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 schools in the source data are more likely to be in large urban metropolitan areas.

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.

Molly McCue

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