How the COVID-19 Pandemic Affected Student Learning in Ohio: Analysis of Spring 2021 Ohio State Tests
Abstract: We estimate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the achievement of Ohio public school students as of spring 2021. Pandemic-related declines in student achievement (from March 2020 to spring 2021) are roughly equivalent to students missing one half to one full year’s worth of learning in math (students in later grades had greater declines) and between one-third and one-half of a year’s worth of learning in English language arts (depending on the grade). Students with below-grade-level achievement experienced larger test score declines than students performing at or above grade level—especially in English language arts—which exacerbated existing achievement gaps. Districts with fully remote instruction experienced test scores declines up to three times greater than districts that had in-person instruction for the majority of the school year. To further examine learning dynamics and to confirm the validity of the overall results, we took advantage of the fact that third-grade English language arts assessments were administered in both fall and spring. We find that at least one third of the overall decline in achievement recorded in spring 2021 can be attributed to decreased achievement growth during the 2020-21 school year, with the remainder due to disruptions that took place prior to the fall testing window (including but not limited to school closures in spring 2020). We also confirm that the estimated impact of remote instruction is plausibly causal (reducing achievement growth by approximately one-third) and that disadvantaged students had disproportionate learning declines during the academic year.