Foundational literacy is key to reversing post-COVID reading declines

Our first look at long-term trends in reading and math assessments since the pandemic began affirm what many education professionals were anticipating. 

The National Association for Educational Progress (NAEP), also known as “The Nation’s Report Card,” recently issued its signature report, which revealed that students assessed during the COVID-19 pandemic experienced significant declines in both mathematics and reading. NAEP’s 2022 data shows that “average scores at both grades [eighth and fourth] were not significantly different in comparison to the first reading assessment [20 years prior] in 1992.”

And while reading score declines as measured by various student assessments during COVID-19 are alarming, they are not unexpected given the profound obstacles students have faced.…Read More

4 blended learning strategies for better student engagement

A 2019 Gallup study that included 128 schools and more than 110,000 students found that student engagement and hope were significantly positively related to student academic achievement progress in math, reading, and all subjects combined.

This is why it’s even more concerning that we continue to see student performance decline, with the National Assessments of Educational Progress, also known as the Nation’s Report Card, reporting that students in the U.S. had the largest average reading score decline since 1990, and the first ever score decline in math in 2022.

Knowing that many students are struggling with learning setbacks can feel overwhelming, but we’re hoping we can help you look at these scores as an opportunity to implement new instructional strategies that engage students, and therefore, help mitigate learning loss.…Read More

Research points to a widening academic divide

Math and reading scores demonstrate more variability post-COVID, primarily due to a larger gap between low and high academic achievers, according to NWEA, a nonprofit research and educational services organization serving K-12 students.

NWEA has released new research findings that examine to what degree students’ reading and math test scores have become more variable during the pandemic, and how achievement gains across the pandemic compare to pre-pandemic trends for students who were low- or high-achieving before the pandemic started.

The research used test scores from more than 8 million US students in grades 3 – 8 across 24,000 public schools who took MAP® Growth™ assessments in reading and math comparing results from students who tested during COVID-interrupted school years (2019-20 through 2021-22) and students who tested prior to the onset of the pandemic (between 2016-17 and 2018-19).…Read More

Students are still behind in math–what needs to change?

As students return to class this fall, K–12 teachers and administrators face many challenges—and math instruction is high on the list.

Although state assessment data from the 2021–2022 school year suggest that students have begun to close pandemic-related learning gaps, the latest National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) results reveal that students’ math scores dropped seven points—the first-ever score drop for math in the assessment’s fifty-year history.

Educators now face the daunting task of making up for lost instructional time from the COVID-19 pandemic, while at the same time, addressing drops in math achievement and teaching grade-level content. Where do educators start?…Read More

5 science lessons that foster students’ social-emotional growth

It’s been said, “If a child can do advanced math, speak three languages, or receive top grades, but can’t manage their emotions, practice conflict resolution, or handle stress, none of that other stuff is really going to matter.

As an educator, I’ve witnessed the truth of this statement firsthand. Whether they’re pursuing a future career or simply playing on a school sports team, it’s imperative that students know how to work together with the people around them. But lessons on social-emotional learning aren’t typically found in a classroom syllabus. So, how do we as educators actively foster these qualities in our students?   

SEL skills can be implemented into any content area; it just takes a little intentionality and planning. By including aspects of SEL in hands-on, inquiry-based activities, we can help students develop these skills organically. Here are just a few science lessons where we intentionally taught social-emotional skills:          …Read More

We can teach math better–here’s how

In 1997, the National Reading Panel issued a report on the findings of dozens of studies looking into the most effective methods of teaching and learning reading. The report offered specific recommendations for effective practices, such as intentional and explicit phonics instruction for all students.

Lately, there has been movement toward codifying science-based literacy learning practices into law, but it took 16 years before the first state to do so, Mississippi, took such action. In the meantime, many educators—and even entire schools and districts—continued using outdated teaching methods or only engaged in phonics instruction with students in need of remediation.

Something similar is happening in mathematics classrooms right now. A national mathematics panel has not been convened to lay out the science of how students most effectively learn math, but there is a large body of research available. Unfortunately, the math instruction most students receive is not based in the science of math—but it could be.…Read More

What’s missing from your professional development?

The importance of professional development in education cannot be overstated. In fact, according to research, when teachers receive well-designed professional development, an average of 49 hours spread over six to 12 months, they can increase student achievement by as much as 21 percentile points.

Yet, professional development is often overlooked and considered an afterthought—especially with pressing concerns around students’ mental health and well-being, gaps in reading and math skills, and so much more. The COVID-19 pandemic shook up professional development, encouraging schools and districts to rethink what this process looks like and how to best set their educators up for success and, in turn, their students.

At Waxahachie ISD in Texas, we’ve implemented professional development through the use of video, and lean on self-reflection and personalization that is naturally part of the video process to transform how our educators learn, collaborate and grow.…Read More

Pennsylvania Evidence Resource Center Adds IXL Math and IXL English Language Arts to List of Evidence-Based Resources for Schools

HARRISBURG, Penn.  — IXL, the personalized learning platform used by more than 13 million students, announced that the Pennsylvania Evidence Resource Center (ERC) has added IXL Math and IXL English Language Arts (ELA) to its list of evidence-based resources. The ERC’s approval signals to educators that IXL Math and IXL ELA have rigorous research supporting their effectiveness in the Keystone State. IXL is used by nearly 30 percent of all K-12 students in Pennsylvania, accounting for more than 560,000 learners.

The Evidence Resource Center is a division of the Pennsylvania Department of Education and provides lists of effective learning resources to the state’s educators. Following its review of IXL’s quasi-experimental research, The IXL effect: Measuring the impact of IXL Math and IXL Language Arts in Pennsylvania schools, the ERC determined that the study met ESSA Tier 2 standards for evidence-based interventions in each subject and added the resources to its list. 

The study investigated hundreds of public schools in Pennsylvania that used IXL Math or IXL ELA. Using data from the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment and Keystone Exams, the study found that schools using IXL outperformed schools not using IXL in math and ELA on each exam. Additionally, an analysis showed that if students mastered just one more IXL skill per week, schools would increase their proficiency rate by 13 points in math and 15 points in ELA. …Read More

NWEA Shares Progress on Using AI to Identify and Remove Barriers Within Mathematics for Students with Visual Impairment

Portland, OR –   NWEA, a not-for-profit, research and educational services organization serving K-12 students, today announced progress it has made toward creating an accessible and equitable math assessment for middle school students with visual impairments.

Last October, NWEA was awarded an  AI for Accessibility grant from Microsoft. The project, led by research manager, Dr. Elizabeth Barker, in collaboration with  Perkins Access  Digital Accessibility Consulting, the Governor Morehead School, and two key local experts: Sonja Steinbach, a math educator who works with students with visual impairments, and Neil Soiffer, an accessibility mathematics developer, aimed to create accessible assessment formats. NWEA has chosen to tackle this important challenge, wanting to ensure students with visual impairments benefit from accessible math and have equal opportunities in their studies.

Seventy-five percent of students who are blind or low vision are at  least one grade behind their peers. This is due to many access barriers that contribute to the lack of accessible math education. Classroom materials are not always adapted to formats such as braille, large print, materials suitable for a screen reader, auditory input, or a combination of these designs. Creating accessible formats for students with visual impairments is important for their learning and success, which is why NWEA is committed to addressing such barriers through the work of this grant.…Read More