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The 74: Rural schools fared better in math

"Rural school districts suffered the smallest academic setbacks in math during COVID compared to urban and suburban systems, yet simultaneously the largest losses in reading, new data shows," reports Asher Lehrer-Small of The 74.


The puzzling finding comes from figures released Friday by education researchers at Harvard and Stanford universities. Their new resource, the Education Recovery Scorecard, compiles test scores from roughly 4,000 schools that serve some 12 million students in third through eighth grades across 29 states and the District of Columbia. Their work presents the first school system-level analysis of student learning through the pandemic.

Nancy Mondragon, a classroom aide in Arkansas’s Waldron School District, said the children’s struggles reflected the parents’ economic woes.

“In rural communities like ours, parents were juggling a lot in trying to make a living, and children spent more time on devices,” she said. “The reading loss definitely shows.”

Mondragon is training to become a lead teacher through Reach University, a program working to combat teacher shortages in rural districts. Reach Dean of Undergraduate Studies Kimberly Eckert believes those persistent staffing issues may also be a factor behind literacy losses.

“For reading, where different learner needs demand different interventions, the teacher shortage may be more of the issue here,” she said. “Access to reading specialists in rural communities may have been impacted by COVID, even if schools remained open.”

Read the full piece here.

Photo care of The 74.

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