National Achievement Report Finds Varied Rates of Recovery from COVID-19 Impact

Based on the assessment data of 3.8 million students from all 50 states, Renaissance’s midyear “How Kids Are Performing” report provides targeted insights to help educators accelerate spring and summer learning

Renaissance, a global leader in pre-K–12 education technology, today released the Winter Edition of How Kids Are Performing: Tracking the Midyear Impact of COVID-19 on Reading and Mathematics Achievement, a new report detailing the academic impacts associated with COVID-19 school disruptions.

Designed to provide educators with targeted data to help them understand how students are performing relative to typical years, the report is based on the results of more than 3.8 million students’ assessments.

Assessment scores from all 50 states and the District of Columbia were included in the sample, which consisted of students in grades 1–8 who took Star Early Literacy, Star Reading, or Star Math assessments during fall 2019, fall 2020, and winter 2020–2021. Using historical data from recent pre-COVID years, the authors established reasonable estimates for how each student  would have been expected to grow in the first half of the 2020–2021 school year, had the pandemic not struck. Each student’s observed performance was then compared to an expected score, with results presented by subject, grade, and subgroup.

The report’s overall conclusion is that student growth during the first half of the 2020–2021 school year is approaching expected levels in both reading and math. On a Percentile Rank basis, students are about 2 points behind pre-COVID expectations in reading and 6 points behind in math. So, while students remain close to expectations for reading (+/- 3 weeks), students are still 4–7 weeks behind in math. Based on comparisons between performance results in winter 2021 and fall 2020, COVID achievement impacts are beginning to shrink in many grades.

Some specific findings of the report include the following:

  • Rural schools are adapting: Regardless of locale, all schools were performing similarly in reading, averaging from two Percentile Rank points behind to on track. In math, students in schools located in rural and suburban areas and towns performed consistent with or above the overall sample, while students in urban schools were further behind expectations than their peers. Students at rural schools also saw the greatest improvement in achievement results between the fall and winter reports.
  • Middle school students continue to experience academic impacts: While students in grades 1–3 and 5 are, overall, meeting expectations for reading, students in grade 4 are still behind typical achievement. Students in grade 6 are further behind than those in earlier grades, and students in grades 7 and 8 are, overall, the furthest behind pre-pandemic expectations.
  • At-risk demographics are disproportionately affected: Students of all races and ethnicities were below pre-pandemic expectations for math, with Asian and white students closest to typical achievement levels and Hispanic or Latino students, Black, and American Indian or Alaska Native students experiencing more substantial impacts. Black, Hispanic, and American Indian or Alaska Native students also lost the most ground in reading from the fall to winter assessments.

“We were pleased to see many students making typical school-year progress despite shifting instructional approaches this year,” said Dr. Katie McClarty, vice president of research and design at Renaissance. “That finding and the ability of rural schools to make up ground from the fall to the winter suggests that schools and students can catch up, even if there’s still a lot of work ahead.”

Renaissance will continue tracking this sample of students to better understand the differential impacts of COVID-19 by subject, grade, and subgroup. Because summer 2021 will be critical for reversing COVID-19’s impact, the company has curated a variety of free resources to fully support summer learning. This includes: free access to the myON digital reading platform, reading and math engagement kits, and summer school implementation guides for Renaissance’s Star Assessments, Accelerated Reader, myON, and Freckle programs.

Educators can download a free copy of the new report at and access the summer learning resources at

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.

Current issue of Equity & Access:

Equity & Access - Issue 28

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