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July 27, 2022 6 mins

The impact of the pandemic on children has been so uneven that in classrooms across the country we are seeing a wider range of student abilities and it could be harder for those lagging behind to catch up.  A recent study shows that students in grades three to eight showed a larger spread in achievement levels this year compared to 2019.  The gap was 4-8% in reading and 5-10% in math.  Erin Einhorn, national education reporter at NBC News Digital, joins us for what to know.

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Speaker 1 (00:00):
It's Wednesday, July. I'm Oscar Ramirez from the Daily Dive
podcast in Los Angeles, and this is reopening America. The
impact of the pandemic on children has been so uneven
that in classrooms across the country, we're seeing a wider
range of student abilities and it could be harder for
those lagging behind to catch up. A recent study showed
that students in grades three to eight showed a larger

spread and achievement levels this year compared to Aaron Einhorn,
national education reporter at NBC News Digital, joins for What
to Know. Thanks for joining us, Aaron, thanks so much
for having it. Well, let's talk about our students in
school right now. Obviously, we know how much of a
disrupter the pandemic was going through remote learning, all the

difficulties associated with that. We've talked about that many times
on the podcast. We've seen a lot of stories about it.
But right now what we're seeing is a little bit
more data to back that up, and it's kind of
causing these divides and classrooms, and it's making it much
more difficult for teachers to really get of each student group,
the attention and the dedication that they might need. You know,

we're seeing the gap widen from students that are performing
above grade level and below grade level. We're seeing that
gap widen even more so, Aaron, tell us what we're
seeing in some of this new research. We have Yeah, absolutely,
as you said, we know about pandemic learning. While as
we've been talking about that throughout the pandemic, and you know,
we've also talked you over the last couple of years
about different demographic groups that are taking you know, black

and Hispanic and kids with special needs have taken kind
of a harder hit on the pandemic. But what we're
seeing now in this research and the research the data
that I reported on in the story was from n
w e A, which is a national testing organization that
makes growth tests. Essentially, their tests that measure how much
a student learns within the school years. So they usually

get the tests in the fall and again in the spring,
and they could say, well, you know, this child knew
these many skills in September and these many skills in
in May or June, and as a result, they can
measure the growth and then they can also compare the
child in each classroom to students around the country. But
what they found when they looked at this analysis is
that those huge differences that were well aware of are

happening even within individual classrooms. So a teacher who in
the past might have had three or four math groups
based on skill level now needs six or seven or
eight different groups. And so they've got so many different
kids with so many different needs in that one classroom.
And it makes the teacher's job, you know, which was
hard before the pandemic and really hard during the pandemic,

and we know really hard now, but even so much
harder because they're having to individualize instruction, you know, for
each student as opposed to you know, of two different groups.
That was a really interesting example and I made note
of it too while reading your article that was happening
at Greensburg Salem Middle School in Pennsylvania, And yeah, just
having to expand those groups, you know, that's what they're doing.

They're putting children together that could be of similar competency
in whatever subject there are, so they can break them up,
they can work together while everybody's given attention around the room.
And yeah, now you're just dividing that so much more.
It spreads the teacher even thinner. On that and teachers
are really frustrated. You know, they want to provide the
best education they can, but that makes it really difficult.

And the study that we're seeing from the n w
e A, they're saying that students in grades three to
eight is where we're looking at where it's showing a
larger spread in the achievement levels. This is compared to
spring of So those are just critical years right now,
and especially third grade right that's a big year for reading.
There's a lot of things that go into that. So
these very critical grades as we're seeing these biggest spreads

right now. Well, and what they're finding is that there
was concerned that that kids wouldn't catch up, and they
are catching up, you know a little bit. And in fact,
one of the things that was sort of a positive
discovery from this analysis is that across the board, every
demographic group appears to be progressing at similar rates. So
it's not like the more affluent kidsids are catching up

faster than the kids who come from you know, who
go to hype poverty schools, But the kids in the
high poverty schools, they started so much farther behind, and
so they're all kind of feeling in the gaps at
the same rate, but you're having a bigger you know,
more more ground to cover and at the rate that
we're improving, according to m w A, and they've been
doing these tests for years, so they have years of

data on where kids in the past used to be
and they're comparing the kids with the past to the
kids today, and they're saying, if we, particularly actually for
middle school, continue to recover kind of at the rate
that we've been recovering over the last year or so,
it's going to take a minimum of five years to
catch up. Now, if you're an eighth grader, five years

from now, it's too late. You're in college and you're
not prepared for college. Yeah, and that's been one of
the hugest concerns, the unknown of how much damage we
might have done throughout the pandemic. And you know, obviously
it was a tough time. You know, public officials were
doing what they were thinking was best. But this is
how much it pacted a lot of students. And you know,
this is kind of on the academic side of things.

We're seeing reading kids are behind on, but it's especially
pronouncing math subjects well, and also the social emotional kids
who were in online instruction, either full time or hybrid
last year, they weren't getting the social interaction with their
peers where children normally would learn social skills like conflict resolution,

and so they're coming into the classroom not knowing how
to talk to adults, not how knowing how to talk
to peers, and so teachers were also dealing with that
this past school year. So there were more reports about
difficult behaviors among kids, and so the teacher spending a
lot of time navigating mat and then of course they're
also navigating this wide skill gap within their clients. So

they've got all these different skill levels, they've got all
these kids with emotional issues, and you know, when kids
might have lost loved ones the COVID nineteen. You know,
their parents may have lost a job that might have
been traumatical, they may have lost their housing. You know,
all kinds of things have happened people, and it's all
landing in classrooms definitely, And you know, when we're trying
to get back to normal, you know, you want to
hit the ground running, so to speak. That's been so

difficult to do with a lot of this that's been
going on, and you know, They're counseling teachers to adopt
new ways of teaching. You know, the teaching from the
front of the classroom to the whole classroom isn't isn't
as effective. They want them to break them up in
the smaller groups and match them with their peers and
try to give that individualized attention the best they can. Yeah,
there's a ton that's going on right now. Aaron Einhorn,

National Education reporter at NBC News Digital, thank you very
much for joining us. Thanks so much for drawing attention
with this shoe. I'm Oscar Ramires and this has been
reopened in America. Don't forget that. For today's big news stories,
you can check me out in the Daily Dive podcast
every money through Friday. So follow us an I Heart
Radio or wherever you get your podcasts.
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