Experiencing a Test Score Freefall after the Pandemic? You’re Not Alone.

Experiencing a Test Score Freefall after the Pandemic? You’re Not Alone.

According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), COVID erased decades of learning gains. U.S. students lost an average of nearly a year in math and reading. Scores are now at a level last seen in 1992. The most severe declines were experienced by underrepresented minorities. Other assessments like the ACT demonstrate that learning loss from pandemic disruptions is severe and widespread. School leaders on the receiving end of this news need all the help they can get. This list of 10 successful strategies for addressing learning loss can help.

1. Compare Cohorts

Compare your cohort’s performance, by standard, to the prior, higher-performing cohort. The delta will shed light on what your students have missed.

2. Aim High

If teachers ratchet down the rigor, they are essentially making permanent what could be a temporary academic slump occasioned by learning loss. The winning formula is to up the rigor and the support.

3. Listen

The best source of information about what help students need comes from the students themselves. Survey them. Ask them what is giving them trouble. Ask them how you can help them. 

4. Get In Quantity Time

There is such a thing as quality time in education. However, students suffering learning loss have a quantity gap they also need to fill. They need more learning time to make up for what was lost. They need more tutoring time to remediate deficiencies. Any program that ups the learning quantity can help you stop the freefall. 

5. Teachers as Tutors

Before hiring outside tutors, consider offering additional pay to the existing teaching staff to provide after-school tutoring support. Your school’s teachers will be better qualified and more familiar with the materials, and with inflation, the opportunity to earn a little extra could go a long way to relieving economic pressures on your team.

6. Backtrack

When students disengage, when they’re confused, when they’re disruptive, stop hammering on the current topic. Assume they’ve missed something earlier. The data has already told you they have. Discover what they’re missing and patch it up.

7. Structure Supports

Hiring tutors for homework help or small group work definitely adds to the “quantity time” but, depending on the skill level of the tutor, may fail to uncover and remediate crippling academic gaps. A structured curriculum review could make tutors more likely to succeed.

8. Reboot Reading

Upping at-home and in-school reading time is a tremendous, low-cost hack for improving academic performance and testing outcomes. Revitalize reading programs and incentives and bake more library visits into the schedule. Your students can read their way out of the learning loss hole.

9. Rebuild Community

Do your students have reasons to engage? Is your campus as vital and vibrant as it was before the pandemic? Clubs and activities are worth putting resources behind. Every student needs a place where they belong. If your students don’t have roots in your campus anymore, if they’re not a tightly knit body of learners, you’re not going to succeed in getting them through the hard work of catching up. 

10. Avoid the Blame Game

Scores are down due to circumstances outside of our control. But blaming circumstances and then tossing score reports into a folder helps no one. The purpose of assessment is not the distribution of blame; it’s to establish what students know and what they still need to learn. Blame is the change killer.

What’s working for you to stop the test score freefall? Please share by emailing [email protected] and we’ll add it to this list.

Did you know MasteryPrep can help remediate learning loss and stop the test score freefall? We provide structured curriculum, software, and training aligned to rigorous college readiness standards. Explore our site to learn more.

About MasteryPrep:

MasteryPrep provides mastery-based college readiness services and resources for the SAT®, ACT®, TSIA2, EOC, and WorkKeys®. MasteryPrep is the nationally preferred SAT and ACT prep provider of the Council for Opportunity in Education and licensed by ACT to include official ACT test questions in its programs. MasteryPrep partners with schools and districts to help level the standardized assessment playing field. MasteryPrep has ranked among the Inc. 5000 “Fastest Growing Companies” for six years and is a featured “Entrepreneur 360” company.


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