by James C. Sherlock
This article is the first in a series about COVID-associated learning losses in Virginia public schools.
The contribution I hope to make is to measure learning losses and correlating factors in each of 132 school divisions horizontally against its own pre-COVID learning assessment results.
That is different than comparing Richmond to Falls Church to Wise County vertically. We will do that too, but only in knowledge differentials — gains and losses — across all grade levels, not in specific levels of knowledge attained by the students before and after COVID interruptions.
Then we will seek correlation of learning losses with other factors. At this level of aggregation of statistics, correlation is what can be done. Causation assessment requires far more information than is available to the public.
I have left out race as a factor on purpose, at least at this time. I have found that when race is included all of the rest of the data tend to be ignored. A mistake in my view. I have included a factor of percentage of students in each school division economically disadvantaged for this data run. I may check it against racial correlations later.
The measures of student achievement used here for measuring learning losses are:
- the last SOLs taken before COVID in 2018-2019 and
- the SOLs in the post-COVID-shutdown year of 2021-22.
Resources over that period were teachers, kids and their parents. Some turnover in teachers and kids, but not significant at this level of aggregation. The kids were three years older, replaced by younger ones in each grade. Since SOL testing does not begin until 3rd grade, virtually all that took SOLs in 2021-22 were in the system in 2018-19.
You will see that some divisions — teachers, students and their parents together — navigated the three years between the spring of 2019 and the Spring of 22 well. Some very well. Others failed in what they tried to achieve. Some badly.
As I roll out the data in a series of articles I think readers will find the learning loss data and its horizontal and vertical correlations informative.
And in some cases surprising. Continue reading