National Research

Student Growth in the Post-COVID Era


  • Subject: Mathematics, Literacy
  • Grades: K–6
  • Topic: Early Childhood, Early Literacy, Growth Goals, Unfinished Learning, Academic Achievement
  • Study Year: 2021–2024

Published June 2024

Policymakers and educators continue to closely track post-COVID student recovery, and with COVID-19 relief funds set to expire, decision makers need clear answers and actionable insights. Yet, accurate depictions of student performance have been challenging to gather given the multifaceted and varied ways academic performance is assessed and these data reported. Obtaining more accurate depictions of student performance requires both longitudinal data, to examine the consequences of COVID-19 (including COVID learning loss), school closures, and the related recovery efforts, and disaggregated data, to examine how results vary by student, school, and community characteristics. Leveraging three years of longitudinal data in comparison to historic growth patterns reveals disparate trends by student age during the pandemic, prior achievement, and school and community characteristics. We find younger students and students who were already needing support academically are the furthest away from reaching pre-pandemic growth trends. In parallel, students from schools serving lower-income or minoritized communities continue to perform below pre-pandemic trends. These data suggest some populations or communities have benefited more while those most in need of support continue to need support. Results bring into question whether intervention approaches have been as targeted as needed, or whether there is a misalignment between the interventions tried and the populations served.  

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Meet the Authors

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Ethan Young, Ph.D.

Research Scientist

Curriculum Associates

Ethan Young, Ph.D., is a research scientist at Curriculum Associates. He specializes in analyzing longitudinal data to uncover national trends in student learning. He received his Ph.D. in Developmental and Cognitive Psychology in 2019 from the University of Minnesota. Before Curriculum Associates, Young was a postdoctoral researcher at Utrecht University in the Netherlands. His research examined how people develop different cognitive skills in the face of childhood adversity. Over his academic career, Young has authored more than 15 academic articles, including one deemed “the best article of the year” in 2019 by Self and Identity and another as a top 10 most cited paper in 2022 by Child Development.

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Kelsey Young, Ph.D.

Associate Director, Research

Curriculum Associates

Kelsey Young, Ph.D., leads the Research Insights and Analytics team at Curriculum Associates, conducting research evaluating national trends in student achievement. Previously, Young served as a consultant for the Colorado Department of Education and as a researcher at two other educational technology companies. Young graduated with a B.S. in Child Psychology and earned her Ph.D. in Educational Psychology, both from the University of Minnesota (UMN). While at UMN, Young's research focused on the identification and support of students with disabilities.