A significant number of elementary and middle school-aged children are showing signs of falling behind in math amid the coronavirus pandemic, which has forced many children to complete this year's coursework online, according to new research.
The numbers from NWEA — a nonprofit organization that regulates standardized testing — show a disproportionate effect on students who come from low-income families and minorities, The Associated Press reported.
NWEA collected data from more than 4 million students in third through eighth grade in the U.S., and discovered that among those students who are economically disadvantaged, nearly 1 in 4 who took the standardized tests in 2019 did not participate in 2020 testing.
“Given we’ve also seen school district reports of higher levels of absenteeism in many different school districts, this is something to really be concerned about,” researcher Megan Kuhfeld said, according to the AP.
Researchers believe that students may be opting out of testing due to a lack of resources, such as access to technology, or they may have stopped attending school, the news service noted.
NWEA reports that students scored almost 5 to 10 percentile points lower in math this year, compared to 2019, a drop that was most severe among third, fourth, and fifth graders. Scores for English and language arts remained consistent with last year, the AP reported.
“The challenge around mathematics is an acute one, and it’s something we’re going to be dealing with even after we get back in school,” NWEA Chief Executive Chris Minnich said.
Renaissance Learning, which also conducts standardize testing, had similar findings among 5 million students in first through eighth grades. All students were found to perform below expectations in math, according to the AP.
“I feel like we’re trying our best,” Andre Pecina, assistant superintendent of student services at Golden Plains Unified School District in San Joaquin, Calif., told the news service. “Our students are engaged, but it’s not optimal. The learning environment is not optimal.”