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Many students able to gain ground in past school year

John Rzeznik is quoted as saying, “I never underestimate working hard.” It turns out, neither do our country’s youth, as a lot of the students who had taken a step back during the initial year of the pandemic were able to gain that ground back.

Despite a year of disruptions, students largely made academic gains this past year that paralleled their growth pre-pandemic and outpaced the previous school year, according to new research released from the Northwest Evaluation Association, a nonprofit research group that administers standardized tests, The Associated Press reported.

Gains across income levels partially closed the gap in learning that resulted from the pandemic, researchers found. But students in high-poverty schools had fallen further behind, making it likely they will need more time than their higher-income peers to make a full recovery.

The results are a measured sign of hope for academic recovery from COVID-19. But sustained effort and investment in education remain crucial.

“These signs of rebounding are especially heartening during another challenging school year of more variants, staff shortages, and a host of uncertainties. We think that speaks volumes to the tremendous effort put forth by our schools to support students,” Karyn Lewis, director of the Center for School and Student Progress at NWEA, and the study’s co-author, said in a statement.

The study used data from more than 8 million students who took the MAP Growth assessment in reading and math during the three school years impacted by COVID. Those numbers were then compared with data from three years before the pandemic.

The study found that if rebounding occurs at the same pace it did in the 2021-2022 school year, the timeline for a full recovery would likely reach beyond the 2024 deadline for schools to spend their federal funds.

For the average elementary school student, researchers projected it would take three years to reach where they would have been without the pandemic.

For older students, recovery could take much longer. Across grade levels, subject and demographic groups, the exact timeline can vary widely and researchers found most students will need more than the two years where increased federal funding is available.

Based on this data, there is still an uphill climb for many of our young students. But it also shows that a great many of them are up to the challenge, and have shown that in the previous school year.

To all of our area youth, we say — keep pushing, keep moving forward toward your goals. The pandemic was a setback to almost every one of us as people, but it doesn’t have to dictate the rest of your story.

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