Has the pandemic widened the achievement gap?

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Educators have been talking about the achievement gap since at least the 1960s and the publication of the Coleman Report. This year, of course, the gap everyone is focused on is between where we would expect students to be in a typical school year and where they are now, given all the learning disruptions of the past year.

But what happens when those gaps combine, as they have for millions of students around the country? Has the pandemic—and the varied responses to it—exacerbated the achievement gap?

To find out, we looked at 5.3 million assessments from students who took Star Early Literacy, Star Reading, or Star Math assessments in both fall 2019 and fall 2020. At first glance, the findings from How Kids Are Performing did not seem as dire as some initial predictions. With a little perspective, however, the results point to a lot of work ahead for educators and students.

Cause for concern

If the pandemic affected all students more or less the same, at least in terms of building closures and access to school, everyone should be at the same disadvantage, right?



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