Study: MN saw a larger decline in test scores compared to states which offered more in-person learning

With COVID-19 cases rising yet again, schools in Minnesota are moving to remote learning. For example, Minneapolis Public Schools just announced that classes will be remote till month-end. Other school districts like Osseo, Richfield, and Prior Lake have also moved to remote learning.

And according to the Star Tribune, the St. Paul school district might go even further by

…sprinkling in digital learning days through the remainder of the school year in recognition of the stresses and challenges created by the pandemic.

This is a worrying trend. Not only have closures contributed to a mental health crisis, but students have fallen behind in academics.

Recently, the NBER published a study showing yet more evidence that students have fallen behind. According to the study, out of 12 states studied, Minnesota offered the least amount of in-person learning. And that has had significant consequences on learning.

The study found that, on average, school districts that offered less in-person learning experienced a 14.2 percentage point decline in standardized math test scores. For districts that had fully in-person learning, this decline was 10.1 percentage points lower.

For English, the decline in test scores was lower. However, school districts with larger proportions of students of color as well as low-income students experienced disproportionately higher levels of decline in English test scores.

Furthermore, the authors add that schools with lower test scores had a lower participation rate in testing in 2021. So, there is a high possibility that losses in states like Minnesota could be even higher.

School districts need to take caution

With more and more data showing the harmful effects of school closures, school districts need to be cautious as they navigate ways to address rising cases.

Minnesota students, especially students of color and those with low incomes, have already been disproportionately impacted by the decisions of Minnesota school districts to offer less in-person learning compared to other states.

Repeating the same trend this year will only exacerbate these learning losses.