Pandemic Lessons: Carroll Learning Data Reveals Student Resilience

Pandemic Lessons: Carroll Learning Data Reveals Student Resilience
Dr. Renée Greenfield, Head of School Blog

Late last month, the journal Nature Human Behavior published the largest, most comprehensive, global study to date on learning progress two-and-a-half years into the pandemic. The results—based on data provided from 15 countries (excluding low-income nations)—were sobering. In short, kids worldwide experienced learning deficits equal to ⅓ of a school year. What’s more, now nearly three years out, evidence suggests those deficits still haven’t been recovered.

The story for Carroll students—I’m pleased to say—is different.

Well before this study was launched, we were engaging in our own data mining. On a far smaller scale, we wanted to find out how adjustments to teaching and learning during the pandemic, including remote learning, impacted Carroll students. We didn’t have to scramble to dig up assessments and records from two years ago; we already had the data.

Because data-informed instruction has always been at the heart of Carroll’s history and commitment to personalized learning, we were collecting critical information all along, even during the dog days of the pandemic. The data were at our fingertips; all we had to do was study them.

Led by Carroll teacher-turned-data analyst, Louisa French, we began doing just that in November. We are still reviewing the findings and I look forward to sharing more in the months to come. For now, a brief overview.

The Upshot: Carroll students’ learning progress slowed but did not regress during the pandemic, and it didn’t take long for them to get back on track.

What We Asked

Relative to the national averages, we wanted to know: How was Carroll students’ learning affected by the pandemic during the 2019-20 and 2020-21 school years? Leveraging their math and reading data, which we have always collected, gave us some pretty insightful answers.

What We Found

Results from two academic indicators—an oral reading fluency program and a math program—show that while learning progress slowed, it did not backslide. And our students made up the lost ground pretty quickly after returning to hybrid and in-person learning in the fall of 2020. It’s important to point out that our conclusions from these data represent correlations, not causation. Also, the data are limited for grades 1, 2, and 9, and additional data points for progress and growth, such as for behavioral health, were not included. But holistically, all indications suggest that our students are doing okay.

What It Means

I draw two affirming take-aways. First, the long hours and hard work that our educators put in—many while juggling challenging home environments and/or their own children—using their best instincts to identify creative teaching methods never before imagined, were worth it. Carroll parents, who trusted us with their children during this unprecedented time, can take comfort in knowing that their children were—and are—right where they should be.

Second, Carroll has always been ahead of the curve when it comes to understanding the benefits of student performance data to help direct instruction and tailor interventions. Today more than ever, we’re reminded of its importance in telling a student’s full story, and we’re grateful for the systems long in place that give us such easy access to it.

What’s Next

In the weeks and months to come, we’ll be taking a deeper dive into the data for a more complete picture of the pandemic’s effect on student learning outcomes, which will help to guide areas of academic focus this school year and next. We also look forward to partnering with nearby school districts that have collected similar data to determine how our students’ growth trajectory compares.

Perhaps one of the greatest take-aways from this data is that it confirms how well-positioned and supported we are at Carroll. Thanks to our devoted educators; our active, engaged school community; and the many resources at our disposal, we authored what could have been a very different pandemic story. Are we still in a recovery mode of sorts? Yes. Is there work left to be done? Absolutely. But together, we continue to make our way through a challenging time, and there’s much to be grateful and hopeful for. The kids are alright.

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