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Report: Poverty impacts learning loss recovery in Ohio

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(The Center Square) – Poor students in Ohio struggle more to recover from COVID-19 era learning loss than wealthy ones, according to a new report.

The Education Recovery Scorecard, a collaboration between the Center for Education Policy Research at Harvard and The Educational Opportunity Project at Stanford, shows students improved between 2022 and 2023, but poorer districts struggled.

The report comes as federal COVID-19 relief money for education runs out in September.

“No one wants to leave poor kids footing the bill, but that is the path Ohio is on,” said Thomas Kane, faculty director of the Center for Education Policy Research at Harvard University 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.”

According to the report, Ohio students lost a half grade in math and a third in reading between 2019 and 2022. But, in high-poverty districts like Akron, Canton, Cincinnati, Springfield and Columbus, those losses were higher at three-quarters of a grade.

The losses were significantly less in wealthier districts, like Hilliard City, Dublin City, Forest Hills, Centerville and Beavercreek.

Overall, districts showed a 30% improvement in math and reading between 2022 and 2023. However, districts like Akron, Springfield City, Washington Local and Southwestern City were still a whole grade behind in math.

State districts had more than $1.9 billion left in federal relief education funds as of September 2023. Ohio received nearly $7 billion in federal recovery funds, with $1.5 billion remaining as of January.

Nationally, students made gains in reading and math last year but only made up a third of the pandemic loss in math and a quarter in reading. The report says that even if students stay on the same pace, they won’t make up all the loss before federal money runs out in September.

Also, the report showed recovery efforts nationwide are not closing the gaps between high- and low-poverty districts that grew during the pandemic.

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