Report: Indiana significantly behind in post-pandemic education recovery

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(The Center Square) – Indiana students are nowhere close to pre-pandemic achievement in math and reading, based upon studies from the 2022-2023 school year.

According to the Education Recovery Scorecard, a collaborative effort between Stanford and Harvard universities, Indiana students lost 56% of a grade equivalent in math and 45% of a grade equivalent in reading between 2019 and 2022. Academic recovery has barely begun, with student achievement gaps improving by less than 20% in math and actually growing worse in reading.

Pandemic learning losses were particularly apparent in large districts like Elkhart, Hammond, Lawrence, Pike, South Bend, Warren and Wayne. Indianapolis Public Schools were a notable exception, experiencing equivalent achievement gaps as the state average, compared to more drastic gaps in districts of similar size and socioeconomic trends.

As educators continue to debate solutions for the achievement gap, they can look toward Indiana’s remaining $862 million in federal pandemic education aid. From 2020 to 2023, the state received more than $3 billion in recovery funding, with 28% still remaining for use.

“No one wants to leave poor kids footing the bill,” said Dr. Thomas Kane, faculty director of the Center for Education Policy Research at Harvard and one of the study’s co-authors. “With federal relief dollars drying up, state leaders must ensure the remaining dollars expand learning opportunities in summer 2024 and through tutoring and after-school contracts next year.”

In total, K-12 schools received $190 billion in federal aid during the pandemic, with the majority targeted at lower-income districts. Yet, as of January, about $51 billion is still available for use before September.

Districts can allot these funds toward summer or after school programming, tutors or lowering absence rates.

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