Unprecedented Study of 2.25M Students Documents Clear COVID-19 Learning Loss
Digital assessment leader’s new longitudinal study is unique because it followed the same students during the past four academic years.
Washington, DC – Oct. 19, 2022 – Today, Cambium Assessment, Inc., a Cambium Learning® Group company and the leading provider of innovative digital assessments to more than half of the states in the country, released "Learning Loss in the Wake of the COVID-19 Pandemic," its first annual longitudinal study that examines what happened to the academic outcomes during the generation of children affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Incomparable, Far-Reaching Study
Cambium Assessment’s new study is longitudinal – meaning the same 2.25 million students were followed over four years before and through the pandemic. Similar to rigorous medical research such as clinical trials, where the same participants are studied over several years in order to get a more accurate estimate of how a medicine works, this study did the same – except with learning loss. Unlike other broadly reported-on studies that take and compare a limited measurement of cross-sectional data during moments in time, this study followed the same students from 2019 to 2022 and represented a sample size more than 100 times larger than comparable studies.
The Cambium Assessment study measures academic outcomes in the generation of children affected by the COVID-19 pandemic by looking at individual educational outcomes in English Language Arts (ELA) and mathematics for three cohorts of students starting in 2019. The three cohorts were grades 3 – 6, grades 4 – 7, and grades 5 – 8. The same students were tracked across four grades and tested each year (except 2020, when all testing around the country was canceled).
Unprecedented Learning Loss
The study shows that two years after the pandemic began, learning loss is significant, with greater losses for younger students and deep, sustained losses in math for all student cohorts. While recovery efforts have created some cause for hope, with ELA outcomes beginning to rebound for some student groups, much work is still needed if a wider transformation of learning loss into delayed or interrupted learning is to be realized. Overall data findings include:
- The main finding in the study is that math performance had a dramatic double-digit drop from pre-pandemic (2019) to post-pandemic (2022).
- Cohort 3: When they were in grade 3 (2019), 64% were doing grade-level math. Three years later when they were in grade 6 (2022), only 48% were doing math at grade level. This is a decrease of 16 percentage points.
- Cohort 4: When they were in grade 4 (2019), 57% were doing grade-level math. Three years later when they were in grade 7 (2022), only 44% were doing math at grade level. This is a decrease of 13 percentage points.
- Cohort 5: When they were in grade 5 (2019), 39% were doing grade-level math. Three years later when they were in grade 8 (2022), only 33% were doing math at grade-level. This is a decrease of 6 percentage points.
- ELA performance also dropped from 2019 to 2022, but not as much as mathematics.
- Cohort 3: When they were in grade 3 (2019), 61% were reading at grade level. Three years later when they were in grade 6 (2022), only 54% were reading at grade level. This is a decrease of 7 percentage points.
- Cohort 4: When they were in grade 4 (2019), 59% were reading at grade level. Three years later when they were in grade 7 (2022), only 51% were reading at grade level. This is a decrease of 8 percentage points.
- Cohort 5: When they were in grade 5 (2019), 58% were reading at grade level. Three years later when they were in grade 8 (2022), only 51% were reading at grade level. This is a decrease of 7 percentage points.
Dramatic Differences in Learning Loss for Students from Historically Marginalized Communities
The Cambium Assessment study also looked at learning loss and recovery for several commonly identified demographic subgroups. In summary, greater losses were observed for students representing historically marginalized communities. Across the cohorts, Black students saw the largest losses, with an average decrease of just over 9 percentage points in ELA and 22 percentage points in math. The next largest losses were from Hispanic students, then White students, then Asian students (Asian students remained nearly flat in ELA and saw an average decrease of just under 12 percentage points in math).
“The Cambium Assessment study shows us that two years after the pandemic, there are some signs of recovery and some areas where students continue to fall behind,” said Gary Phillips, Ph.D, Vice President of Psychometrics at Cambium Assessment. “In addition to the indisputable impact overall, especially for younger students in mathematics, it's clear that the pandemic hit historically marginalized communities the hardest. The hope is that a combination of additional funding and programming will help translate even more learning loss into delayed or interrupted learning.”
“The Cambium Assessment team has made a remarkable long-term commitment to collecting and reporting student outcomes across critical points in their education journey,” said Ashley Andersen Zantop, CEO of Cambium Learning Group. “With these study findings in hand, it is imperative that we sustain and deepen our support for the K-12 community, including the crucial work to diagnose and accelerate academic outcomes and to provide equitable access to effective solutions for all students, especially those disproportionately impacted by delayed learning and learning loss.”
This paper reports the results of a Cambium Assessment longitudinal study that followed three cohorts of students beginning in 2019 (one year prior to the COVID-19 pandemic) until 2022 (two years after the start of the pandemic). The intent of the longitudinal study is to examine learning loss in the wake of the pandemic. The study involved five states with over 2,250,000 students with three cohorts beginning in grades 3, 4 and 5. The study used the percentage of students functioning on grade level as the main variable. This is operationally defined as the percentage of students that are at and above proficient on the state accountability test. This study compares state standards so levels of proficiency achievement will differ from studies using measures from other organizations.
The full study can be found here.
About Cambium Assessment
Cambium Assessment is the clear market leader pushing the boundaries of psychometrics, standards-based adaptive assessments and technology innovations. Our continuum of capabilities and services has enabled numerous states and education consortia to transition from paper-pencil testing and into online-assessment systems almost instantaneously. In the 2018–2019 school year alone, we delivered more than 60 million tests to nearly a third of the nation’s students in 28 states and jurisdictions. All of these tests were processed with the rapid scoring and reporting turnaround essential for educators to identify their students’ strengths and needs promptly.
Cambium Assessment is a part of Cambium Learning® Group, the education essentials company. Across all areas of our organization, we deliver technology solutions and services that emphasize the elements that are most essential to education’s success: simplicity, certainty and now.
About Cambium Learning Group
Cambium Learning® Group is the education essentials company, providing award-winning education technology and services for K-12 markets. With an intentionally curated portfolio of respected global brands, Cambium serves as a leader in the education space, helping millions of educators and students feel more universally seen, valued and supported each and every day. In everything it does, the company focuses on the elements that are most essential to the success of education, delivering simpler, more certain solutions that make a meaningful difference right now.
To learn more, visit www.cambiumlearning.com or follow Cambium on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Medium. The Cambium family of brands includes: Cambium Assessment, Lexia® Learning, Learning A-Z®, Voyager Sopris Learning®, ExploreLearning®, Time4Learning®, and Kurzweil Education®.
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