Skip to main content
The Official Web Site of the State of South Carolina

Study shows SC student achievement impacted by COVID-19

Mon, 01/11/2021

Editor’s Note: The SC Education Oversight Committee (EOC) held a full committee meeting on January 11, 2021 at 1:00 p.m. The meeting, which focused on the release of this report, was held in Columbia, SC. The full report can be accessed here. There is also a one-page brief posted along with the Powerpoint from today's meeting. 

Study shows SC student achievement impacted by COVID-19

Analysis shows nearly seven of 10 students in grades 3 through 8 will not meet grade level standards in English Language Arts and Math in Spring 2021

Columbia – Using data from approximately 222,000 South Carolina students in grades 3-8 who took MAP Growth assessments in 2019 and 2020, it is projected that nearly 70 percent of those students will not meet grade level proficiency standards in English Language Arts and math in spring 2021. The “COVID Slide”, as it is widely referred to, is expected to be more dramatic in mathematics, among elementary students and for students who are often identified as vulnerable, such as those living in high-poverty households or who do not have access to reliable internet access.

“The pandemic has presented an unprecedented upheaval to the education of students in every corner of the state,” said by Matthew Ferguson, EOC’s Executive Director. “While the disruption has provided many challenges and, in some instances, opportunities for innovation and creativity, we cannot ignore that many students have and will continue to experience learning loss. Student success – from cradle to career – must remain our collective goal.” 

Fall 2020 Projected Student Proficiency on SC Grade Level Standards

Key findings from SC’s fall 2020 data analysis, which was done with assistance of researchers at the Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA), the creators of MAP Growth, include:

  • On average, nearly seven out of ten South Carolina students in grades 3 through 8 are projected not to meet grade level proficiency standards in mathematics and English Language Arts in spring 2021.
  • Comparing fall 2019 to fall 2020 in mathematics achievement, the COVID slide was most dramatic in grades 2 through 5, with between 10% and 16% fewer South Carolina students expected to meet grade level proficiency. In grades 6 through 8, approximately 5% fewer students are projected to be proficient on grade level standards in mathematics: only 1 out of 4 South Carolina students is projected to be proficient in mathematics in grades 7 and 8.
  • Comparing fall 2019 to fall 2020 reading achievement, South Carolina students demonstrated smaller declines than mathematics, with between 4% and 6% fewer students expected to meet grade level proficiency in grades 2 through 5 in spring 2021. In grades 6 and 7 there was no change in projected proficiency and only a 1% decrease in grade 8. However, despite scoring nearly the same as students last year, nearly 7 out of 10 South Carolina students are projected not to be proficient in reading.
  • Significant achievement gaps among historically underachieving students and their higher achieving peers continue to exist but do not appear to have widened during emergency remote learning. It is important to note vulnerable student populations may be missing from the sample.

Analyses to demonstrate changes in achievement in the fall of 2020 were conducted using two different measures: 1) the projected percentage of South Carolina students that will be proficient (achieve the level of meets or exceeds) in English/Language Arts (ELA) and mathematics as measured by the SC READY summative assessments; 2) the median percentile rank of South Carolina students with respect to norms established for the MAP reading and mathematics assessments. Analyses were conducted using data from South Carolina students who were assessed using MAP in fall 2020


Summer 2020 Academic Recovery Camps

The EOC analysis included an evaluation of students who attended Academic Recovery Camps (ARCs), instructional opportunities in reading and math intended for at-risk students in kindergarten through third grade in summer 2020. Ferguson said students attending the camps made significant gains in both reading and math, although many remained significantly behind in grade level expectations. He stressed that only a fraction of students who needed intervention attended ARCs and there is much work ahead.

“Of the 3,740 students who attended ARCs in 37 districts, we only had pre- and post-test results from 1,613 of those students,” said Ferguson.” Over 9,000 students were invited to participate and 21,000 were initially identified by districts as coming in with significant learning deficits. We have only scratched the surface.”

Ferguson recommends the creation of a process to allow districts to develop community partnerships to provide afterschool and summer programs, requiring regular assessment of struggling students. He stressed that continued, regular assessment of all students is critical, “allowing for individual and system academic performance to be monitored, guiding instruction and policy decisions.”


Educator Leaders’ Perspective on Remote Learning

Part of the review of remote learning included on-site interviews with over 75 individuals in 15 school districts in summer and fall 2020. While educator leaders identified obstacles like unequal distribution of internet access and devices and a lack of a digital ecosystem to support virtual long-term instruction, they pointed to several opportunities that have emerged. 

“While there is still a digital divide, the pandemic has certainly accelerated student access to technology across the state,” Ferguson stated. “We have the potential to flatten the classroom for students, increasing their learning opportunities outside of their own communities.” 

Ferguson pointed to a number of recommendations in the report, part 1 of this study. Some of the recommendations include: 

  • Provide support, increased instruc­tional time, and targeted interven­tions, especially in mathematics, to students while school is disrupted and beyond
  • Deploy strategies to find students not attending school and not engaged
  • Provide tutoring services for stu­dents who are struggling
  • Provide meaningful professional learning on remote learning for school staff
  • Collect and transparently report student data around opportunities to learn and academic achievement in order to guide curriculum and instruction
  • Craft policy to support students, es­pecially those who are most vulnera­ble for learning loss
  • Prioritize the return to face-to-face classrooms as soon as safely possible.

The research, compiled in a report “Review of Remote Learning’s Impact on South Carolina’s Students, Part I”, was presented today to the committee by Ferguson. The next phases of reporting on remote learning include conducting surveys and focus groups on the experiences of families and teachers during emergency remote learning and the fall 2020 restart and analyzing student pre- and post- assessment data.

The SC Education Oversight Committee is an independent, non-partisan group made up of 18 educators, businesspersons, and elected leaders. Created in 1998, the committee is dedicated to reporting facts, measuring change, and promoting progress within South Carolina’s education system.