Study: R.I. students suffered significant learning loss during pandemic

A NEW RESEARCH project by Harvard University and Stanford University released Thursday shows that students in Rhode Island have suffered multiple months of learning loss due to the COVID-19 pandemic. / PBN FILE PHOTO/JAMES BESSETTE
A NEW RESEARCH project by Harvard University and Stanford University released Thursday shows that students in Rhode Island have suffered multiple months of learning loss due to the COVID-19 pandemic. / PBN FILE PHOTO/JAMES BESSETTE

PROVIDENCE – A new review by Harvard University and Stanford University researchers shows that Rhode Island students have suffered multiple months of learning loss as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The research report, called the Education Recovery Scorecard released Thursday, highlighted 40 states – including Rhode Island – and offers a comparable review of district level learning loss between 2019 before the worldwide health crisis took hold and the spring of 2022. Researchers at the two universities used the 2022 National Assessment of Educational Progress assessment scores and publicly reported district proficiency rates on assessments from last spring, such as the Rhode Island Common Assessment System exam results.

According to the researchers’ findings – based on a points system to determine the results – Rhode Island students statewide lost more than four months of learning math during the pandemic and more than two months of learning reading. Some districts, though, have suffered greater losses.

In South Kingstown, students there have lost close to nine months of learning in math and more than five months of learning reading. Students in Newport, per the research, have experienced almost eight months of learning loss in math and more than six months of learning loss in reading.

- Advertisement -

The Providence Public School District, currently under R.I. Department of Education control, has seen its students lose close to six months of math learning loss and almost four months of lost learning in reading. Students in Woonsocket, Westerly, North Providence, Cranston, West Warwick, Pawtucket, East Providence and Chariho have also lost about six months of learning math due to the pandemic, according to the research. Students in those same districts have experienced approximately three months of learning loss in reading.

Meanwhile, only Narragansett students have not experienced learning loss in both math and reading during the pandemic, per the research.

Harvard Center for Education Policy Research Faculty Director Thomas Kane said in a statement that children have resumed learning, but largely at the same pace as before the pandemic. There’s “no hurrying up” teaching fractions or the Pythagorean theorem, Kane said.

Plus, Kane said in districts that are the hardest hit would have to greatly accelerate their teaching and learning to make up for the learning loss. Based on their metrics, teachers in South Kingstown would have to teach double the amount of a typical year’s worth of math material for three straight years to catch up.

“It is magical thinking to expect that will happen without a major increase in instructional time,” Kane said. “Any district that lost more than a year of learning should be required to revisit their recovery plans and add instructional time – summer school, extended school year, tutoring, etc. – so that students are made whole.”

That learning loss can prove costly for students in terms of lost salary. The researchers, with their metrics, feel that the estimated loss in lifetime earnings per student in the Ocean State is $14,839. In other words, students, because of the learning loss in both subjects, are likely to earn close to $15,000 less than what they could have earned in their careers.

The state knows recovering from the pandemic will take some time, based on RIDE’s own various data reports. R.I. Education Commissioner Angelica Infante-Green has noted publicly before it will take Rhode Island between three to five years to rebound academically from the health crisis.

James Bessette is the PBN special projects editor, and also covers the nonprofit and education sectors. You may reach him at Bessette@PBN.com. You may also follow him on Twitter at @James_Bessette.

No posts to display