COVID-19 Impact on Education & What Educators Can Do About It

COVID-19 Impact on Education & What Educators Can Do About It

COVID’s emergence in the 2019-2020 school year disrupted education worldwide. We’ve long suspected that a dramatic decline in instructional time, combined with an increase in general stress levels and social isolation would negatively impact students. Now, as data comes in to support that conclusion, educators are looking for the most effective ways to move forward.

The Findings

The Learning Policy Institute conducted research and assessed academic achievement in math and reading students from grades 3-8 between 2019 and 2021. The study found that average math test scores for grades 3-8 were lower by 0.20 to 0.27 standard deviations (SDs) compared to fall 2019 results. Similarly, average reading test scores were lower by 0.09 to 0.18 SDs compared to fall 2019 results. The results also showed that the gap between low-poverty and high-poverty elementary schools grew larger due to the pandemic. This research is supported by recent data from both NAEP and PARCC.

Certainly, the pandemic has taken its toll. However, one year’s worth of data provides a limited amount of information. Many factors affected education during the pandemic, and many strategies are being employed to make up for lost instructional time. We should refrain from drawing catastrophic conclusions about educational deficits until we have more data. As we do begin to gather more data, we should take care to focus on more than standardized test scores when discussing student achievement.  Far from creating the issues we see in education today, the pandemic merely exacerbated pre-existing conditions. The learning gap was a problem prior to the pandemic, as were unsatisfactory scores on standardized tests. The overall value of standardized tests has been questioned both before and after COVID. One bright spot is that many educational institutions have received additional funding as the result of the pandemic—funding that can be used to address problems that have long plagued schools.


While additional instruction time is an option for some students, we cannot rely on this as a systemic approach in the short or long term. Instead, it makes practical sense to strive for high-quality instruction and informative, transparent assessment.

Assessment can be a complex issue, but one profound systemic intervention is the use of proficiency scales. Target learning goals are the focus of such scales, which also provide clear criteria for assessment. Teachers, students, and families are encouraged to track student progress using the scales. This system allows for transparent, informative discussions about student achievement. It stands to reason that such specific feedback and tracking allows teachers, students, and families the opportunity to discover and correct misunderstandings as quickly as possible. We can’t fix what we don’t know is broken. For more information on proficiency scales, visit:

Effective, high-quality instruction has always been the ultimate goal of educators—the pandemic did not change that. In a climate where there is an additional need to focus on closing the learning gap and increasing assessment scores, that instruction can be tailored to help achieve those goals. Specifically, the systematic use of cumulative review helps students gather background knowledge, deeply integrate information, make more linkages between content areas, and recognize content out of context. Further, Marzano Academies is helping schools to tailor cumulative review to include an instructional tool used to help students “decode” test items.

For more information about our competency-based education programs and resources please contact our team today by calling (720)470-0360.