By Years End, An Additional 143,000 Students Expected to Fall Behind in
English Language Arts and More Than 129,000 in Math

Study Highlights Urgent Need for Interventions to Stop More Students from Falling Off Track Before the Coming School Year

NEW JERSEY – JerseyCAN, a nonprofit focused on advocating for high quality schools for all New Jersey students, released today the first statewide study to quantify learning loss for New Jersey students during this school year. The study entitled, “A Time to Act: COVID-19 Academic Slide in New Jersey,” found significant drops in the number of students proficient — at grade level — in English Language Arts (ELA) and Math. Compared to 2019 statewide proficiency numbers for students in grades 3-8, there is projected to be a 24 percentile point drop in ELA proficiency and a 23 percentile point drop in Math proficiency.

A Time to Act reveals that across the board students lost significant amounts of expected learning in the first half of the 2020-21 school year, with Black and Latinx students losing more learning than their peers.

    • On average, New Jersey students lost 30% of expected learning in ELA and 36% of expected learning in Math, but the loss was greater for Black students, who lost on average 43% in ELA and 50% in Math.
    • Similarly, Latinx students lost 37% of expected learning in ELA and 40% in Math.
    • While economically disadvantaged students experienced a learning loss of approximately 40% in ELA, similar to their more affluent peers, they experienced a greater expected learning loss in Math of 43% compared to just 33% for non-economically disadvantaged students.

This research project issues a dire warning, that if learning loss continues, approximately 393,000 students in ELA and 430,000 students just in grades 3-8 will not be on grade level by the end of this school year. This includes students who were not on grade level before the pandemic as well as students who are projected to be off grade level due to the disruptions caused by COVID. The study was conducted by EmpowerK12, a research organization based in Washington, D.C., which analyzed data from the first half of the 2020-2021 school year. The full report can be found here.

In recent weeks, a coalition of educators, civil rights leaders, and advocates — including JerseyCAN and leaders of the Urban League of Essex County, the New Jersey PTA, and the New Jersey Children’s Foundation — sent a letter to Governor Murphy calling for critical learning interventions. Shortly thereafter, Governor Murphy announced a new grant program for schools to support learning loss with interventions called for by the coalition, including high-dosage tutoring and summer programming. In addition, the Murphy Administration has released a grant program to support student and staff mental health, which the coalition also supported. As part of the application process for the learning loss grants, schools will be submitting student data to enable the New Jersey Department of Education to conduct their analysis on learning loss.

In addition to these state-administered grant programs, local districts in New Jersey are receiving $1.1 billion in federal stimulus funds for education from the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act (CRRSA) and an additional $2.4 billion over the next three and half years from the newly signed American Rescue Plan. This is an unprecedented level of federal resources that will be used at the local level to address the COVID slide identified in this study.

In upcoming weeks, JerseyCAN will release additional briefs that feature best practices on accelerating learning and the effective use of these federal resources. In addition to the robust implementation of interventions such as high-dosage tutoring and more intensive summer programming, upcoming briefs will call for specific supports to address student and staff social and emotional wellbeing and mental health, individualized learning plans for each student, tools for parents to understand and support students’ needs, and educator support and innovative staffing.

State Senator Teresa Ruiz, Chairwoman of the Senate Education Committee, has led efforts to measure and address learning loss statewide. “The learning loss and its effects are clear. This is an urgent situation and we must be transparent and work collectively to address this issue. There is no time to wait. Students who were already lagging have slipped even further behind due to the pandemic,” said Senator Ruiz. “We have specific opportunities to address this situation proactively. We can start by creating high quality summer programs to help address the learning loss that has compounded over the last year so that our students have a better chance at succeeding in the 2021-22 school year.”

“Our state and districts will be receiving significant federal resources from the American Rescue Plan. It is critically important that our leaders use these funds to implement proven solutions to help our students get up to speed before the upcoming school year begins,” said Patricia Morgan, Executive Director of JerseyCAN. “Our schools must implement high-quality interventions to accelerate student learning and get as many students back on track as soon as possible.”

“Our low-income, Black and brown communities are bearing the brunt of the COVID crisis – not just when it comes to the virus itself, but the long-term impacts of a year away from school buildings,” said Vivian Cox-Fraser, President and CEO of the Urban League of Essex County. “This study should be a call to action for those of us who care about equity in our communities.”

Previous research has documented steep learning losses dating back to last spring, when schools were first closed because of COVID-19. An analysis by CREDO found that on average in New Jersey, there were at least 58 days of learning lost in reading and over 174 days lost in math this past spring.

According to a recent report from McKinsey, COVID learning loss will have long-term economic impacts on students, estimating that the average US K-12 student will lose $61,000 to $82,000 in lifetime earnings — an entire years’ salary — due to the learning gaps exacerbated by COVID-19. These estimates are worse for Black and Latinx students.

The New Jersey Children’s Foundation, a Newark-based nonprofit dedicated to promoting a fact-based discussion about education, funded this study as part of a yearlong effort to measure the impact of COVID-19 on education in New Jersey. The goal of the initiative is to ensure that education stakeholders have better information about how families are navigating the educational disruption caused by COVID-19 as well as getting better estimates of the scale of student learning loss caused by those disruptions.


About JerseyCAN: JerseyCAN: The New Jersey Campaign for Achievement Now is a nonprofit organization that advocates for all students across the state to have access to high-quality schools. We work to improve policies and programs to support equity and excellence in New Jersey education.


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