Latest Research from Curriculum Associates Highlights Importance of Grade-Level Readiness for Student Growth

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Whether students are prepared for grade-level learning matters more to their progress over the course of the pandemic than whether they were remote or in school, according to a new report released by Curriculum Associates. The report, Student Growth during COVID-19: Grade-Level Readiness Matters, analyzes data gathered from the edtech company’s i-Ready Assessment tool for reading and mathematics from more than two million Grades 1–8 students who used i-Ready Diagnostics during the last three school years, using student testing location (i.e., in school or remote) as a proxy for learning location.

The report provides new insights on student learning trends, and serves as a call to other education researchers to look at similar factors. Curriculum Associates’ data follows the same students, examining how they progressed over time from the 2019–2020 school year before the pandemic hit through the 2020–2021 school year. This report offers a unique understanding of how the pandemic impacted students as, unlike most research published on unfinished learning, it followed the same students across two years, incorporating their reported testing location during the pandemic.

“After several reports exploring the extent of unfinished learning, we find that remote versus in school alone did not matter much in impacting student scores,” said Dr. Kristen Huff, vice president of assessment and research at Curriculum Associates. “Though there were slight differences in student growth based on location, what mattered most was where students started in the first place—that is, whether they were already behind or prepared for grade-level work at the beginning of the school year.”


  • Remote versus in-school location alone did not matter a great deal in impacting student scores. 
    • There was little difference in growth between students who reported all or mostly in-school testing during COVID-19 compared to those who were remote only or mostly remote, although the differences in math were generally larger than reading.
  • Of the variables investigated, whether students started the school year prepared or underprepared for grade-level work was the most significant factor affecting growth during the pandemic.
    • Students who came in underprepared for grade-level work struggled the most to keep up and catch up during COVID-19 disruptions, regardless of testing location, poverty level, student body demographics, or school location.
    • Although students in urban, high-poverty schools with more Black and Latino students showed growth, which is worth celebrating, that growth still lagged behind what we would expect given historical pre-COVID-19 trends.

“We believe this insight should be a call to other researchers who have access to student-level data to look at similar factors,” said Huff. “Through everyone’s unique contributions, the research community can weave together an understanding of the true impact of 2020 and 2021 on student learning and education. With that knowledge, we can move forward in recovery and in preparing for and handling future disruptions to minimize unfinished learning and impact on students.”

Student Growth during COVID-19: Grade-Level Readiness Matters is part of a series of research reports by Curriculum Associates on the impact of the pandemic on student learning. To learn more about Curriculum Associates’ ongoing research, including the most recent fall 2021 report on unfinished learning, visit

The American Consortium for Equity in Education, publisher of the "Equity & Access" journal, celebrates and connects the educators, associations, community partners and industry leaders who are working to solve problems and create a more equitable environment for historically underserved pre K-12 students throughout the United States.

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