Slow Literacy Gains, Long COVID in Kids: 7 Insights into Pandemic Recovery and Aftermath in U.S. Schools

A weekly roundup of headlines about how the pandemic — and its aftermath — is shaping schools and education policy.

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This is our biweekly briefing on the pandemic’s long-term impact on America’s educational system. See the full archive.

This Week’s Top Story

A bar chart showing percentage of third grade students who need intensive intervention in reading. At the end of the 2022-23 school year, 29% were far behind and needed intensive intervention.

Literacy Data Among K-3 Students Show Some Gains, but Not Enough

  • Via Amplify: A research brief on national end-of-school-year reading data for K-3 students revealed that while schools across the country have made progress in reading scores among earlier elementary grades (K-2), gains among third graders remains comparatively slow.
  • Students in grades K-2 demonstrated progress compared to the 2021-22 school years, with the greatest gains among Black and Hispanic students. At the same time, third graders exhibited the least improvement from two years ago and no improvement from the prior year’s third-grade cohort. The slower improvements in grade 3 suggest a persistent impact on the cohort of students most affected by lost instructional time during the pandemic.”

Key Insights

1 in 6 Kids Have Persistent COVID Symptoms for 3 Months after Infection

  • Via CIDRAP: “A systematic review in Pediatrics of 31 studies published through December 2022 reveals that persistent symptoms three months after confirmed COVID-19 infections, or ‘long COVID,’ affect 16% of children and adolescents.”
  • The most common persistent symptoms seen in the studies were sore throat, persistent fever, sleep disturbance, fatigue and muscle weakness.
A photo of a student walking into Harvard's Office of Admissions and Financial Aid
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The Determinants and Causal Effects of Admission to Highly Selective Private Colleges

  • The New York Times on a new Opportunity Insights Study
  • “For applicants with the same SAT or ACT score, children from families in the top 1% were 34% more likely to be admitted than the average applicant, and those from the top 0.1% were more than twice as likely to get in.”
  • “The new data shows that among students with the same test scores, the colleges gave preference to the children of alumni and to recruited athletes, and gave children from private schools higher nonacademic ratings. The result is the clearest picture yet of how America’s elite colleges perpetuate the intergenerational transfer of wealth and opportunity.”
  • “ ‘What I conclude from this study is the Ivy League doesn’t have low-income students because it doesn’t want low-income students,’ said Susan Dynarski, an economist at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, who has reviewed the data and was not involved in the study.”

Education’s Long COVID Continues

  • Via Lindsay Dworkin in The 74: “Researchers Karyn Lewis and Megan Kuhfeld analyzed test score data from approximately 6.7 million students in grades 3 to 8 in 20,000 public schools who took MAP Growth reading and math assessments last academic year.”
  • “They found that, in nearly all grades, achievement gains last year fell short of pre-pandemic trends. Because students are behind where they were before the pandemic, they would need to make greater-than-ordinary progress to get back on track. NWEA data show that isn’t happening; over the course of the 2022-23 school year, older students’ movement toward full recovery stalled.”
  • “NWEA researchers now estimate that on average, students will require interventions and support equivalent to 4.1 months of additional schooling to catch up to pre-COVID levels in reading and 4.5 months in math.”

Overall Risk of Pediatric ICU Stay, Death from COVID-19 Low 

  • Via CIDRAP
  • “A University College London-led team finds a very low risk of pediatric intensive care unit admission and death from COVID-19 and multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C) during the first two years of the pandemic, with the highest risk among children with complex medical problems and neurodisabilities.”
  • “We must now look beyond counts of pediatric COVID-19 cases to understand, measure and reduce the deleterious indirect impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on children — and at a time when many have declared the COVID-19 pandemic ‘over,’ our efforts to overcome these secondary pandemic effects have only just begun,” they wrote.

COVID Excess Deaths Higher Among Republicans

Generative AI and the Future of Work in America 

  • Via McKinsey: “By 2030, activities that account for up to 30% of hours currently worked across the U.S. economy could be automated — a trend accelerated by generative AI.”
  • “An additional 12 million occupational transitions may be needed by 2030. As people leave shrinking occupations, the economy could reweight toward higher-wage jobs. Workers in lower-wage jobs are up to 14 times more likely to need to change occupations than those in highest-wage positions, and most will need additional skills to do so successfully. Women are 1.5 times more likely to need to move into new occupations than men.”
  • “By 2030, we further estimate a 23% increase in the demand for STEM jobs.”
  • “People in the two lowest-wage quintiles (those earning less than $30,800 a year and those earning $30,800 to $38,200 a year) are up to 10 and 14 times more likely, respectively, to need to change occupations by the end of this decade than the highest earners.”

… And on a Lighter Note 

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