Selec⁠t⁠ Few S⁠t⁠a⁠t⁠es Are Sh⁠i⁠n⁠i⁠ng Examples of Learn⁠i⁠ng Loss Recovery

February 7, 2024

Kayla Maloney

CALN Project Manager

Children Sitting on Brown Chairs Inside the Classroom

Since the nationwide implications of learning loss took root in 2020 due to the COVID pandemic, some states more than others have led the country in learning loss recovery. 

A study published by Harvard University’s Center for Education Policy Research and Stanford University’s Educational Opportunity Project, called the Education Recovery Scorecard, has shown that 2022 to 2023 is the first year that states around the country are seeing positive recovery from learning loss. 

Over the course of 2020 to 2022, every state saw a steady decline in student proficiency. As of 2022, the national average of test scores saw a .53 decrease in grade levels from 2019 in math and a .31 decrease from 2019 in reading. 

This means that due to COVID, students essentially lost over half a year of learning reading and almost a third of a year of learning math before seeing any indication of recovery. 

States’ plans started bearing fruit this past year. From 2022 to 2023, the national average in math scores improved by almost 33 percent of the initial loss while the reading scores improved by almost 25 percent of the initial loss. 

Mississippi, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee saw the highest recovery rates in math, with an improvement of over a third of a grade level in each state. Illinois, Mississippi, and Ohio saw the highest recovery rates in reading, with Illinois and Mississippi recovering over a third of a grade level. 

Impressively, there are four states that met or surpassed their pre-pandemic proficiency levels. In math, Alabama is the only state that exceeded its pre-pandemic test scores. In reading, Illinois, Mississippi, and Louisiana all achieved or exceeded their pre-pandemic test scores. 

The recovery in these states and others is largely due to the $190 Billion and counting of federal funding dedicated to learning loss recovery. 

One of the study’s co-authors, and the Faculty Director of the Center for Education Policy Research at Harvard, Thomas Kane, said “Now is the time to finish the job and ensure all schools soon surpass 2019 levels of achievement.” 

Kane is absolutely right. Now that states are finally seeing a long-awaited turn-around in test scores, it is time for them to set their sights on achieving reading and math proficiency rates that fully surpass the 2019 status quo. It can be done through good policy, rigorous curriculum improvement, and responsible spending.