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. The Minneapolis public system, for example, just announced that beginning today till the end of the month, classes will be remote. 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. As evidence has shown throughout the duration of the pandemic, school closures have been detrimental to the wellbeing of children. Not only have closures contributed to a mental health crisis, but students have fallen behind in schooling.

Just recently, a new study that compared levels of in-person learning among 12 states found that in the 2020-2021 academic year Minnesota was among one of the states that 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 amount of in-person learning experienced a 14.2 percentage point decline in standardized math test scores. For districts that had full in-person learning this decline was 10.1 percentage points lower.

And while the decline in standardized scores was smaller in English –– 6.3 percentage points ––, 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 participation in these scores was lower in 2021 compared to other years –– especially among schools with lower tests scores. So there is a high possibility that losses in states like Minnesota which offered less in-person learning 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 through ways to address rising cases.

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

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