Research and Efficacy

Research on Unfinished Learning

Have Pandemic-Related School Closures Affected Student Learning?

Our latest research, Understanding Student Learning: Fall 2021, finds that as we begin the 2021–2022 school year, there is some persistent unfinished learning compared to pre-pandemic historical averages—particularly in the early elementary grades for reading and elementary grades for mathematics. Furthermore, historical inequities that pre-date the pandemic distinctly remain in schools serving mostly Black and Latino students and in schools located in lower-income zip codes than in those serving mostly White students and located in higher-income zip codes, respectively. Compared to last fall, where we saw the most unfinished learning in the elementary grades for reading and mathematics, we are seeing some small upticks in early elementary reading and more widespread progress in mathematics achievement thus far in fall 2021. Report released November 2021.


Recent Research

Student Growth during COVID-19 paper cover.

Student Growth during COVID-19: Grade-Level Readiness Matters

This research report compares student growth in math and reading during the pandemic to student growth in pre-COVID-19 years. The research found that all students in the COVID-19 cohort showed less growth when compared to pre-COVID-19 control students in both reading and mathematics, and that student grade-level readiness impacted the rate of growth. Report released February 2022.


Revisiting the Digital Divide: Digital Learning during the Pandemic paper cover.

Revisiting the Digital Divide: Digital Learning during the Pandemic

This research report shows the various trends in students’ online instruction before and during the COVID 2020–2021 school year and sheds light on the access and usage of one prominent digital instruction platform. The report examines how the pandemic, combined with pre-existing inequities, disproportionately impacted the usage for students from historically marginalized populations. Report released January 2022.


The Impact of COVID-19 on Student Academic Growth in 2020-2021 paper cover.

The Impact of COVID-19 on Student Academic Growth

This research report shows that, overall, students had slower rates of growth during the COVID 2020–2021 school year compared with pre-COVID school years. Notably, students who were lower performing before the pandemic had slower rates of growth whereas students who were higher performing before the pandemic had little, if any, change in rate of growth by the end of the school year. Impacts varied by student demographics, neighborhood poverty, and school locale.  Report released December 2021.


Testing location factors 2020-2021 paper cover.

Factors Related to Testing Location during the 2020–2021 School Year

This research report provides a detailed overview of student testing location during the 2020–2021 school year, insight into the variables that were associated with testing in school, and highlights how students from historically marginalized populations were more likely to test away from school during the pandemic. Report released October 2021.


Academic Achievement at the end of the 2020-2021 school year paper cover.

Academic Achievement at the End of the 2020–2021 School Year: Insights after More Than a Year of Disrupted Teaching and Learning

This research brief describes student learning at the end of the 2021 school year. The research found that the pandemic had an outsized impact on students who are in elementary school, attending schools that serve mostly Black and Latino students, and attending schools in lower-income zip codes. Report released June 2021.


Unfinished Learning Findings paper cover.

What We’ve Learned about Unfinished Learning: Insights from Midyear Diagnostic Assessments

This research brief discusses findings from winter i-Ready data in the 2020-2021 school year compared to previous years and sheds light on the severity of unfinished learning. Report released March 2021.


Cover of the Understanding Students Needs research paper.

Understanding Student Needs: Early Results from Fall Assessments

An in-depth look at results from fall i-Ready Assessment taken in school in fall 2020. While more students started the school year below grade level, the differences are not as dire as many predicted. Report released October 2020.


Executive summary about COVID’s impact on learning.

The Effects of COVID on Learning: Remote Testing Raises Questions

After analyzing the differences between remote and in-school testing, we found that students testing remotely tended to perform better than students testing in school, raising important questions about remote testing. Report released October 2020. 


Overcoming the Digital Divide: Distance-Learning Successes during the Pandemic cover.

Overcoming the Digital Divide: Distance-Learning Successes during the Pandemic

Our findings show that despite being hardest hit by the pandemic, schools in low-income zip codes serving primarily students of color were able to keep students connected to learning and, in some cases, growing in spite of the challenges inherent with distance learning. Report released September 2020.


One Hundred Leaders' View on the Back to School Challenge cover.

One Hundred Leaders’ View on the Back to School Challenge

This paper discusses findings from conversations with more than 100 district leaders about the challenges they faced after school closures as they planned for the 2020–2021 school year, including expected challenges, reasons to be hopeful, and the tools that were believed to be most important for success. Report released June 2020.


A Window into the Digital Divide cover.

A Window into the Digital Divide

Early distance-learning data reveals persistent equity gaps and low-income students’ appetite for digital learning opportunities. Report released May 2020.


Locate Your Representative