Students in grades 3 through 8 lost an average of about 7 months of math learning and 4.5 months of reading instruction in Connecticut between 2019 and 2022, according to data recently released by the Center for Education. Harvard Policy Research. These losses were most notable in districts with high numbers of low-income students.

New Haven public school students, among the hardest hit in recent data, lost an average of about a year and three months of math instruction and about a year of reading, compared to 2019 levels. Hartford and Waterbury lost about a year in math. Hartford students also lost 7 months of reading and Waterbury students lost 6.5 months of reading instruction.

Data is based on recent National Education Progress Assessment scores and state assessment data from 2022.

New Haven Schools Superintendent Dr. Ilene Tracey told CT Examiner in an email that she was not surprised by the results given that New Haven has spent more time learning remotely during the pandemic. than any other district in the state.

“New Haven Public Schools was the only system that was shut down for an extended period during the pandemic,” Tracey said. “When we actually returned in person, we had major disruptions with staff and student attendance due to the virus. Teacher and student attendance has been affected. We cannot teach to empty seats and when staff are absent due to illness, teaching and learning also suffer. »

In an email to CT Examiner, Belen Michelis, director of communications for Waterbury Public Schools, said student learning in Waterbury was not immune to the effects of the pandemic and that the district s adapted accordingly.

“Waterbury Public Schools continues to accelerate strategies to close the opportunity gap,” Michelis said. “We strategically use ESSER funding to enhance curriculum, improve instruction, provide additional social and emotional support for students, and increase opportunities for intervention support through tutoring.”

According to an analysis by the center, students with higher levels of poverty tend to suffer greater learning losses than districts with lower levels of poverty. Districts like Darien, Fairfield and Glastonbury, where less than a quarter of the student population qualify for free and reduced-price lunch, have lost about half a grade level in math. Districts like New Britain, Hartford and Waterbury, where more than three-quarters of the student population are entitled to free and reduced-price lunch, lost about a year.

Jesse Sugarman, senior adviser for strategy and institutional advancement at Hartford Public Schools, told CT Examiner that learning loss has been generally consistent across the country and that Hartford has a three-year recovery plan to remediate.

Sugarman said Hartford’s high concentration of high-need students — 85% — was a focus that would be targeted with their ESSER-funded plan.

“Limiting the number of specialist teachers, speech therapists and speech therapists aligns directly with the areas where we need the most,” Sugarman said. “We face these issues more acutely than some other districts could.”

Not all districts are represented in the Harvard data — the majority of Connecticut’s northwest corner and large swathes of the eastern half of the state are missing from the report.

In the eastern part of the state, Griswold and Norwich were two districts with some of the biggest learning losses.

Pupils in Griswold have lost around 14 months of maths learning and 9 months of reading from 2019 to 2022. Norwich pupils have lost almost 3.5 months of reading and almost a full year of maths.

In comparison, students in East Lyme showed around 6 months of learning loss in math and reading from 2019 to 2022.

East Lyme Superintendent Jeff Newton told CT Examiner in an email that he was not surprised by the results.

“We expected to see reduced scores (like most districts) due to the pandemic, so it wasn’t surprising,” Newton said. “We (along with all other districts) will continue the instructional practices we have put in place to quickly recover from student learning loss.”

An analysis published with the data indicated that while districts that spent more time on remote learning compared to in-person instruction tended to have greater learning losses, this correlation was not always perfect.

In Lyme-Old Lyme schools, which were able to remain open for in-person learning for most of the 2020-21 school year, students saw a learning loss of approximately 5 ½ months of instruction in mathematics and about 3 ¾ months of reading from 2019 to 2022.

In response to the report, Lyme-Old Lyme Superintendent Ian Neviaser said he felt the use of NAEP data was not an accurate measure of student achievement in the district.

“Not all of our students take this test, nor do we take it every year,” Neviaser said in an email. “For these reasons, we do not use the NAEP as a measure to determine student achievement or growth in Region 18. Instead, we use a number of assessments, including, but not limited to, limit, the SAT and the SBAC.”

Eric Scoville, spokesman for the state’s Department of Education, agreed that the data only paints a “partial picture” that excludes charter schools and regional education service centers. But he said the report was consistent with the results of Connecticut’s most recent statewide assessments.

“Our statewide student assessment results, released in August, also show promising gains from 2021 to 2022, particularly in the elementary grades – something these national reports cannot provide,” said said Scoville. “With targeted interventions and continued innovation, we will be able to maintain our momentum.”

Scoville said the state will continue to partner with school districts to make the best use of federal coronavirus relief funds, focusing on equity and getting students up to grade.

In a Friday call to discuss the data, the center’s researchers estimated that school districts will need to double their budgets to bring students back to their previous levels of achievement.

Thomas Kane, director of the Education Policy Research Center, said many districts have student recovery plans that aren’t enough to determine how far students have fallen behind.

“I urge districts to revisit their plans now that we have this data on the extent of their loss of success,” he said, noting that districts have only one year left to spend the monies. major federal coronavirus relief funds they received in 2021.

Kane also said parental perception makes a huge difference and most parents don’t believe their children are as far behind as they really are.

“Over 90% of parents think their child is currently at grade level or above. Yet what we just told you is that the average student has lost half a grade level,” Kane said.

He said the disparity could mean parents won’t address learning loss with the urgency it needs and encourage their school district to take additional action.

“I think it’s less about money, and more about common sense of urgency. And that’s one of the things we’re trying to solve by providing better data,” he said.