The White House’s Plan to Rebound Pandemic Learning Loss

America’s public education system is still rolling with the pandemic’s punches. As the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) found major drops in math and reading scores in their post-pandemic report, there hasn’t been significant improvement since. 

To address this need, last month, the Biden Administration announced its Improving Student Achievement Agenda for 2024. The plan identifies three strategies proven to improve student learning, including reducing absenteeism, intensifying tutoring, and expanding after-school and summer learning programs.

“We need to make sure every student is in school because kids can’t learn if they are not in school,” said the president’s Domestic Policy Advisor, Naree Tanden when announcing the new agenda. 

Absenteeism rates have doubled since the 2018-2019 school year. Today, around 28% of students are missing more than 18 days of class in a year. And, as Tanden noted, there is a strong link between skipping school and lower test scores. The NAEP’s recent data found that absenteeism led to a 16-27 percent dip in math test scores and a 35-45 percent decline in reading.

The White House’s strategy to combat this issue is to “[engage] parents and families as partners in their children’s education.” This entails addressing transportation issues, notifying parents when their child misses class, and strengthening school accountability for absenteeism.

To accelerate student learning, the agenda focuses on utilizing tutors more intensely. According to the White House’s Improving Student Achievement FACT SHEET, a quality, “high-dosage” tutoring program must include three 30-minute sessions per week, occur in groups no greater than four, take place during the school day, be led by a qualified tutor, and utilize evidence-based curriculum. 

The third strategy set out in the agenda emphasizes the need to expand summer and after-school programs. One of the studies cited in the FACT SHEET that highlights the benefit of such programs found that when school days are extended to 8 hours, test scores improve up to 24 percent.

“Consistently participating in strong afterschool programming builds on the daily teaching and learning in the classroom,” Tanden states in the announcement.

Beyond announcing this new strategy, the White House is taking action to see that schools across the country implement it. This includes increased monitoring to ensure states are implementing evidence-based strategies. The example given in the FACT SHEET notes how, under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), the Department of Education will examine schools implementing tutoring programs to verify if they’re doing so effectively. 

Additionally, the Biden Administration is putting its money where its mouth is by allowing states to continue using American Rescue Plan (ARP) funds through the 2024-2025 school year to fund initiatives laid out in their improving achievement plan. This is just one among several funding plans. Another includes making more grant opportunities to support student achievement. 

To read the Improving Student Achievement Agenda FACT SHEET, click here.

Written by Ed Madison & Bo Brusco

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