- Mid-year data from the DIBELS early reading assessment of approximately 400,000 students in over 1,400 schools in 41 states shows grades K-3 are performing worse at the middle of the 2020-21 school year than the same period last year. The difference is more pronounced in K-1, especially for Black and Hispanic students.
- Compared to this time last school year, the percentage of students on track decreased from 55% to 37% for kindergartners, and 58% to 43% for 1st-graders. Meanwhile, the percentage of students needing intensive intervention jumped from 28% to 47% for kindergartners, or a 68% increase, and 26% to 43% for 1st-graders, or a 65% increase.
- At the middle of the last school year, 27% of Black kindergarteners were “well below
benchmark,” or in the lowest category, in early literacy skills. Comparatively, there are now twice as many Black kindergarten students at risk for not learning to read (54%). There is a similar trend for Hispanic kindergarteners, 59% of whom are in the lowest category as compared to 34% last year.
DIBELS, or Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills, is a series of short tests that assess K-8 literacy developed by the University of Oregon. The tests can be given by teachers marking student responses on paper or online through Amplify's mCLASS platform.
According to results from the beginning of the 2020-21 school year, more students had slipped "far behind," and COVID-19 learning losses were twice as large as typical summer loss, Paul Gazzerro, director of data analysis at Amplify, said during a webinar. Students continue to perform worse than pre-COVID-19, and fall learning has not closed that gap, he added.
Typically there is a reduction in the percentage of students struggling in literacy from the beginning to the middle of the school year, but, Gazzerro said, "We're just not seeing the bounce back that we were hoping for."
Susan Lambert, chief academic officer of elementary humanities at Amplify, warned against holding students back as a result. "There is a tendency to shift away from grade-level instruction," she said. "The problem is that [when] we do this, particularly in the beginning grades, kids are going to get even more behind."
Lambert added districts have to find a solution that enables teaching of grade-level content and catches students up.
Kyrene School District in Arizona, for example, put in place a tiered instruction plan with synchronous and asynchronous lessons so parents could supplement their children's learning. The plan also includes training for teachers, coordinators and administrators and builds in an additional 45 minutes a day for personalized learning to address gaps, district leaders said during the webinar.
Lambert suggests a two-year plan for districts, with instruction that is evidence-based. "That means district and school leaders will have to be intentional in organizing calendars to make sure there is instruction beyond daily instruction," Lambert said.
Districts, she added, will have to get creative with scheduling and staffing, and make sure instructional staff also understand the science of reading in order to target students' needs.