Survey Says Pandemic Impacted Student Progress On Every Level

A new survey among educators has some disturbing findings with the realization that the pandemic impacted student progress negatively.

By Rick Gonzales | Published

student progress

This should not come as a surprise to anyone with school-aged children. Student progress has been COVID stunted, and it may be even worse than we really know. Every single grade level across the board has been negatively affected since the start of the COVID pandemic, though thankfully, not all the news is bad news.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) conducted a teacher survey that showed the 2020-21 school year showed less student progress than normal years. According to the surveyed teachers, 52% of them claim that they had more students start that academic year behind in all their schoolwork. While those numbers look bad, what the survey found out is that they only got worse as the school year progressed.

This GAO report was the final in a series of three that was taking a closer look at the impact the COVID pandemic had on elementary and secondary public schools. The disrupted learning has put many students behind the eight ball and trying to get them out from behind it has been a chore. The GAO, during this final student progress report, spoke with numerous school principals who only had praise for their teachers who continued to support their students while the pandemic raged on, but they also expressed major concerns about the long work hours teachers put in and were fearful of burnout. This burnout, which has definitely been seen, has contributed to mass teacher turnover.

But it is the numbers as the school year moved forward that are distressing. Of the teachers surveyed, a whopping 64% of them stated that they had many more students show less progress in 2020-21 than they did in a typical school year. 45% of the teachers surveyed said that when the school year ended at least half of their students were well behind. Those teachers who taught grades K-2 and 3-8 had more students starting the year behind than those teaching 9-12.

One rural teacher surveyed said via K-12Dive said, “[W]e were … in person for the majority of the year but…we felt that a lot of the kids were … behind coming into the year. So, we did some afterschool help which … bridged the gaps a little bit between some of the struggling students. But I still don’t think it was enough.” It was far from being enough to get the majority of the students back on track.

There was a bright side to these poor student progress numbers, thankfully. Some teachers surveyed said that they did see some improvement with certain students. They reported that those students who made progress were ones who could work at their own pace. They thrived in that environment and were also helped by having a supportive family environment.

With as many students progresses affected by the COVID pandemic and the numbers proving this, what can be done to help students not only catch up but maintain this ground once they get there? Public schools are using Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funds from the American Rescue Plan that provided almost $200 billion to spend on any COVID-related troubles.

Some of the strategies schools are employing include after-school programs, summer schools, tutoring, and after-school programs. They are also looking at extending school days and extending the school year. The hope with all these initiatives is that student progress will benefit.

As most school districts have reached their summer recess, look for a few of these options to start. The COVID pandemic didn’t do any favors for student progress and it is going to take a lot of work from students, teachers, and families to offset the damage done.