Half of students start school year behind — again

Dive Brief:

  • Nearly half — 49% — of students began the 2022-23 school year behind grade level in at least one subject, according to a December survey of nationally representative public schools released Thursday by the National Center for Education Statistics. 

  • That is just about even with the 50% of students reported to be behind by at least one grade level at the start of last school year. Percentages for both years are significantly higher compared to a typical pre-pandemic year, where 36% of students were behind. 

  • For schools reporting students behind a grade level this school year, almost all said at least some students were behind in math and English. Fewer schools reported students lagging behind grade level in science, social studies or computer science this year versus last year. 

Dive Insight:

Curriculum and testing experts have indicated schools may not be doing enough to catch students up and are actually winding down on recovery efforts. However, the survey of 1,026 public schools shows the percentage of public schools using various strategies to support learning recovery has either stayed level or increased since the 2021-22 school year. 

“All either increased or remained the same, indicating schools continue to make concerted efforts to support learning recovery in our students,” said Rachel Hansen, a statistician in the Sample Surveys Division and project director for the School Pulse Panel at NCES, in a briefing with reporters on Tuesday. 

Still, the increased percentage of students that schools report as behind at least one grade level remains “quite larger than what administrators estimated before the pandemic,” said Hansen. 

“We’re seeing that they’re starting the school year off about the same as they were last school year,” she added. “It just means that we’ve got a long road ahead of us.” 

According to the NCES survey, top strategies schools are using include identifying individual student academic needs with diagnostic assessment (88%) and formative assessment data (85%), and providing remedial instruction (81%). 

While tailored accelerated instruction was a popular candidate for learning recovery going into the 2022-23 school year, only about 59% of respondents reported using that strategy. Less than a quarter said they extended class time, the school day or school year to accommodate recovery efforts. 

Of those providing tutoring, only 37% reported using high-dosage tutoring, which was another popular intervention stressed by education experts as schools reopened their doors during the pandemic. A higher percentage, almost 60%, offered standard tutoring in 2022-23. Hansen noted 17% reported not offering any type of tutoring at all. 

In the schools that offered high-dosage tutoring, about a third of the student body used it. 

Nationwide, only an estimated 10% of public students are receiving high-dosage tutoring, 14% are receiving standard tutoring, and 19% are receiving self-paced tutoring, according to the NCES report. 

This article originally appeared in www.k12dive.com

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