In-Person Learning Helped Narrow Reading Gaps During Pandemic – ScienceDaily

A study led by a researcher at North Carolina State University found that although there were significant learning losses in reading for elementary school students during the COVID-19 pandemic, in-person learning opportunities helped some of these students mitigate learning loss and accelerate gains in reading compared to online learners. . Younger primary students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, English language learners and students with disabilities have been particularly affected by the pandemic school closures.

“Online education was inevitable during the pandemic, but in-person education was an equalizer,” said the study’s lead author, Jackie Relea, assistant professor of education at NC State. “Although children in this large North Carolina school district who chose in-person instruction spent about two months in school during the pandemic, many had faster growth over time in reading than their peers who chose entirely remote instruction. This is consistent with the evidence. Which we saw from learning loss in the summer.”

The study published in the journal reading and writingcomparing the average reading gains of third-, fourth-, and fifth-grade students in one large school district in North Carolina on the Northwestern Assessment Consortium’s (NWEA) Measure of Academic Progress (MAP) Growth Reading Test, a computer test that looks at students’ basic reading skills, language, and writing vocabulary and text comprehension.

They compared students’ average scores at the beginning and end of the 2020-21 school year with the average student earnings achieved during the 2018-2019 school year. During the pandemic, the district offered students the option to go back to school, allowing researchers to compare the impact of in-person versus online education.

“During the fall semester, the students would spend 10 days on their own, while the rest of the semester was online, and in the spring, they would come to school for about 50 days,” Relea said. “The other group has been in completely remote instruction the entire time.”

During the pandemic, third, fourth, and fifth graders had lower reading gains on average than students in the 2018-2019 school year. The most severe declines were by age for third graders. During the pandemic, their average gains were less than half — at 48% — of the average gains made by students in the 2018-2019 school year, while fourth graders averaged 65% of the gains made by students in 2018-2019 , and fifth graders were 58%.

“Third graders typically learn and build basic reading skills such as word reading, spelling, vocabulary, and text comprehension,” Relea said. “They need clear instructions and guided practices to become independent readers, and they are still developing self-regulatory skills for learning at home.”

The researchers also noted smaller gains in reading for third and fourth graders from low socioeconomic status families during the pandemic, compared to pre-pandemic students, and students from high socioeconomic status families. They also saw a similar trend for English language learners.

“Students from higher socioeconomic backgrounds may have better access to educational resources, technology, support for their parents, and a stable Internet connection during homeschooling,” Relea said. For English language learners, teachers provided distance learning resources, but there were limited opportunities for these students to develop English language skills through academic interaction and conversation with peers and teachers.

For students with disabilities, reading gains were significantly lower during the pandemic than they were for students with disabilities in the 2018-2019 year, with the largest decline recorded in third and fourth graders.

“For students with disabilities, many special education services have been suspended during the pandemic,” said Relia. “Most educators faced challenges trying to accommodate the unique needs of students with disabilities. There was a huge loss for these students.”

When researchers compared the reading gains of students who chose distance education in 2020-2021 to students who chose to return for in-person learning when possible within the cohort of students from lower socioeconomic groups and English language learners, they saw that students who chose in-person learning had greater gains, which helped To narrow the gaps for students.

“It was interesting to see that students who chose in-person instruction started the 2020-21 school year with a lower level of reading, but made better progress over time than their peers who chose the completely remote option,” Relea said. .

While they saw achievement gaps starkly narrow for students in fourth and fifth grades, progress was less clear for third graders. They also noted an inconsistent pattern of students with disabilities participating in in-person tutoring.

“The online learning environment generally requires learners to work more independently and have self-regulatory learning strategies and metacognitive skills to manage their learning,” Relea said. “However, with the limited scaffolding and guidance available during a sudden shift to distance settings, many younger children, especially those in vulnerable groups, may not be able to develop these skills enough to enhance their learning.”

In future work, the researchers want to incorporate detailed contextual information about online versus in-person instruction during an epidemic.

“We don’t have data on what happened in distance education versus in-person instruction during the pandemic,” Relea said. But delving into the features of educational practices and student interactions will help us better understand how and why the in-person learning setting provides enhanced learning opportunities for students to achieve sustained reading growth during a pandemic, especially for low-achieving students.

“It will also give us insight into online teaching approaches and resources to consider in distance education to meet the diverse learning needs of students in the future.”

The study, “The Impact of COVID-19 on the Growth of Reading Achievement of Grade 3-5 Students in a US Metropolitan School District: Variation Across Student Characteristics and Instructional Methods,” is published online in reading and writing. In addition to Relia, other authors were Patrick Rich, of the American Institute for Research, and James S. Kim and Joshua B. Gilbert of Harvard University. Funding was provided by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative.

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