COVID Transitions – MindWires Consulting

COVID Transitions – MindWires Consulting

Episode 19: The Covid Slide

December 07, 2020

In this episode, Phil Hill, Jeanette Wiseman, and Kevin Kelly discuss recent studies looking at student learning in K-12 during the pandemic.


* Phil Hill* Jeanette Wiseman* Kevin Kelly


* Reasons for Skepticism in K-12 Student Learning Report


Phil: Welcome to COVID Transitions, the podcast where we discuss the transition that higher education and even K-12 is going through due to the pandemic this year. I’m Phil Hill and again, I’m here with Kevin Kelly and Jeanette Wiseman. It’s great to talk to you guys yet again. Another somewhat difficult subject as we look at K-12 learning loss.

How are you guys doing? Jeanette?

Jeanette: Doing OK. You know, hanging in there.

Phil: You got the kids partially quiet for the podcast.

Jeanette: We’ll see.

Phil: Kevin, you’re all set up now that we got the repairman gone?

Kevin: He has done his work. He’s done it well. I’m ready to go.

Phil: Ok, great. Well, the topic we wanted to cover today is that we’re starting to see a lot of data roll in, particularly the K-12 level, looking at learning itself. How much are students not learning compared to what they would [00:01:00] have been expected to learn in a normal circumstance? Some people call this a learning loss or COVID slide. It’s basically saying how are students performing from a learning perspective compared to, say, last year or what we would have expected to do?

Initially we talked about doing this podcast because The Washington Post reported on data from the Fairfax County public schools, talking how across the board for middle school and high school, the number of F’s that students were getting for the first quarter were going up significantly. Then we also had some initial data from Illuminate, which they provide some assessment and data platforms as a vendor. They were looking at some of the data and what is the learning loss relative to the annual monthly growth they would have expected. Both of these [00:02:00] reported pretty significant learning losses, and that’s how we wanted to cover the podcast.

Since that time, we’ve had new data come in. In particular NWEA, which is another assessment company, they put out a report looking at 4.4 million students. Unfortunately, there is a pretty big caveat in what they presented. What was reported is the fact of yes, we’re seeing significant learning losses for math, particularly in the middle grades, and that we certainly have differences with different ethnic groups or English language learners. It also got reported that reading really hasn’t suffered significantly. I found that was a pretty flawed analysis that you can’t ignore or just tack on the caveat, but really called into question how serious is the learning loss?

We’ll put these in the show notes, by the way.  [00:03:00]We also have a new report from Renaissance Learning Software Vendor that includes some assessment where they’re looking at learning, and they have a pretty comprehensive report. They’re showing significant losses as well. Then McKinsey, the management consulting firm, put out a report that largely relies on NWEA data.

The point is we’re getting a lot of new data looking at the learning loss.