New Report from Curriculum Associates Shows Slow Rebound in Reading and Math Proficiencies

Curriculum Associates has released its newest annual report, State of Student Learning in 2023: Academic Recovery Remains Slow in Most Grades, which demonstrates that little progress has occurred since the beginning of the pandemic, and even students in Grades 1 and 2—who were not in school at the start of the pandemic—are not performing at pre-pandemic benchmarks.

The State of Student Learning in 2023 report describes reading and mathematics achievement of students in Grades 1–8 gathered from Curriculum Associates’ i-Ready® assessment tool, which is administered to more than 11 million Grades K–8 students in the United States. The results in this report are from a nationally representative sample across three school years: 2022–2023, 2021–2022, and 2018–2019—the last full academic year prior to the pandemic.

“Educators have been working tirelessly to help students close learning gaps over the past few years,” said Rob Waldron, CEO of Curriculum Associates. “It’s essential that we stay focused and support educators to accelerate student learning to get back to pre-pandemic levels and beyond. We need to continue to push forward on data-driven and evidence-based strategies that can drive student growth and set students on a pathway to proficiency.”

Key Findings:

  • Grades 1 and 2 students were not yet in school when the pandemic shut down schools in March 2020, yet they are still performing below pre-pandemic averages.
    • In spring 2023, 61 percent of Grade 1 students and 60 percent of Grade 2 students placed on grade level in reading on the i-Ready Diagnostic. While these results are slightly above achievement levels in spring 2022, they are seven percentage points below achievement levels in spring 2019.
    • Overall, early-elementary students show a small increase in grade-level attainment in reading  between spring 2022 and spring 2023, yet they remain below pre-pandemic achievement levels.
  • Upper-elementary and middle school achievement levels in reading have remained stagnant. In Grades 5–8, fewer than 50 percent of students are reading on grade level, comparable with pre-pandemic levels.
    • In 2023, 50 percent of Grade 4 students placed On Grade Level, a three-percentage-point drop from 2019. This is notable because Grade 4 students were in Grade 1 when schools initially closed—a crucial year for the development of foundational reading skills.
  • In mathematics, fewer students are on grade level and more students are below grade level across all grades compared to pre-pandemic levels.
    • In Grades 5–8, the percentage of students on grade level was between four and 10 percentage points lower than in 2019.
    • Across all grades, student learning from 2021–2022 to 2022–2023 remained stagnant.
  • Historical inequities continue to persist between schools serving majority Black and Latino students and schools serving majority white students, as well as between schools in low-income communities and schools in higher-income communities.

“The research cannot be any clearer,” said Kristen Huff, vice president of assessment and research at Curriculum Associates. “On the whole, student recovery for the last two years is largely stagnant and is not happening at the rate needed to make up for unfinished learning. We need to look carefully at how we are supporting and accelerating student growth and at all of the factors impacting student learning if we want to start seeing significant turnaround in student grade-level achievement.”

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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