When schools switched to distance learning last spring due to the pandemic, educators were concerned about the potential for students’ academic progress to stall or regress. But a new study finds that, for students in grades 3-8, in-person learning helped narrow reading achievement gaps between Black, Hispanic, and White students.
The study, conducted by the American Institutes for Research (AIR), looked at data from more than 2,700 schools across the country. It found that, on average, students who were in-person for at least two-thirds of the 2019-20 school year had higher reading scores than those who were distance learning for the majority of the year.
The achievement gap between Black and White students shrank by 41 percent when students were in-person, while the gap between Hispanic and White students decreased by 34 percent.
Though the findings are encouraging, the study’s authors caution that they do not mean that the pandemic is over for schools. They say distance learning can still be an effective option for some students, and that educators should continue to find ways to support all students in their academic journey.
When schools first closed due to the pandemic, many educators were concerned about the potential for students to fall behind. However, recent studies have shown that in-person learning, even when limited, can help close achievement gaps.
One such study was conducted by the University of Chicago Consortium on School Research. They found that when students were able to return to in-person learning, even for just a few days a week, they made significant progress in reading.
This is especially true for students who were already struggling. The researchers believe that the structure and support that in-person learning provides can make a big difference for these students.
We know that the pandemic has been difficult for everyone, but it is important to remember that even small amounts of in-person learning can be beneficial. As we look to the future, we should continue to find ways to provide this type of learning for all students.