elainey Tidwell says she loves reading. The tricky part for her is understanding the words on the page.
Though she returned to school in August 2020, repeated quarantines left her mostly on her own at home. Her father is a construction supervisor who has to be on site. Her mother works from home but gets few breaks during the day. Delainey sometimes had to care for her little sister during virtual school.
Delainey’s difficulty with comprehension is also hurting her in math class, where she struggles to understand word problems, said her mother, Danyal Tidwell, who pins some blame on the pandemic. “We want to give her every resource we can between school and home, because we want her caught up,” Mrs. Tidwell said.
For two years, schools and researchers have wrestled with pandemic-era learning setbacks resulting mostly from a lack of in-person classes. They are struggling to combat the learning loss, as well as to measure just how deep it is. Some answers to the second question are becoming clear. National data show that children who were learning to read earlier in the pandemic have the lowest reading proficiency rates in about 20 years.
The U.S. Department of Education last Thursday released data showing that from 2020 to 2022, average reading scores for 9-year-olds slid 5 points—to 215 out of a possible 500—in the sharpest decline since 1990. Average math scores fell 7 points to 234, the first statistically significant decline in math scores since the long-term trend assessments began in the 1970s.