Nationwide, students’ reading and math scores are among the lowest in 20 years, and experts blame distance learning.
SACRAMENTO, Calif. – A new report reveals what many feared but also expected: distance learning was hurting students’ academic progress.
The result is the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), also known as The Nation’s Report Card. It tests the reading and math skills of the country’s fourth and eighth graders.
In 2022, the test was conducted for the first time since the pandemic began, and the results are the worst in about 20 years.
However, tutoring makes a difference in these students’ grades—and in their lives.
Saxton Rogers is a 10th grader at Laguna Creek High School in Elk Grove. He says distance learning was difficult for him.
“I’m a procrastinator, so when I get a lot of work I end up not wanting to do it,” he said. “Before distance learning, I was doing well in school and really wasn’t struggling in anything except about one class. And then when the pandemic hit, I think it messed me up. I got really lazy and started turning in assignments late and stuff and it was affecting my grades.”
He reached out to the nonprofit organization Impact Sac, which works to empower young people.
“Youth is struggling, especially post COVID and distance learning, so we truly believe it’s really important to connect people with education and knowledge for them to thrive,” said Veronica Boulus, Impact Sac’s program director.
For nearly two years, Impact Sac has provided dozens of students with free tuition from a contract teacher named Jacob Juico, who is paid with scholarship funds.
Juico has made a huge difference in Rogers’ academic progression.
“Over the summer, I was able to help him pass a class he failed the previous year,” Juico said. “I helped him get from a low D to an A in both grades over the summer just by working with him… He’s made tremendous progress.”
“He just helps me strive for greatness,” Rogers said of Juico. “I feel like he wants what’s best for me.”
“Having a tutor is something that may not be financially available for some of these families,” Juico said, “and so I think having the opportunity to tutor for free from Impact Sac is a wonderful idea.”
Students need help now. As the Nation’s Report Card showed, students across the country — including in California — were losing progress in reading and especially math.
Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona called the test results “appalling and unacceptable … a reminder of the impact this pandemic has had on our learners and the important work we must do now for our students.”
But the effects were not felt equally. A study by Stanford and Harvard found that students in high-poverty schools lost more academic progress than students in low-poverty schools.
“Some of the youth that we work with don’t have as many resources as other people,” Boulus said. “So it’s really important for us to really close that education and achievement gap and really try to help youth learn in a way that they understand.”
Janeth Ortega is an eighth grader at Foothill Ranch Middle School in the Twin Rivers Unified School District, where 95% of the students qualified for a free or discounted lunch last year. She says distance learning actually helped her focus, but her grades were struggling and she knew she needed help, which is how she got in touch with Impact Sac and Juico.
“Last year, when I was doing really bad in school, I had a lot of missing assignments,” Ortega said.
Since she started tutoring at Juico about half a year ago, she has said, “I’m actually on my way to having A and B. And so, students shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help, because everyone needs someone’s help at some point.”
Rogers credits Juico with turning bad grades into good grades.
“This time last year I had about two Fs,” he said. “Well, the whole school year so far I haven’t had bad grades. My grades are good… Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it.”
California Department of Education: Less than 50% of students prepare for reading and math