National Report Reveals Students Are Behind in Reading and Math

How Kids Are Performing report shows that achievement gaps widened between fall and spring—and offers vital resources to help accelerate learning

BLOOMINGTON, Minn. (July 30, 2021) Renaissance, a global leader in pre-K–12 education technology, today released the full-year edition of How Kids Are Performing, a new report detailing the academic impacts associated with COVID-19 school disruptions.

The new report summarizes performance and growth data across the entire 2020–2021 school year to document the extent to which the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic have impacted students’ achievement in 1st- through 8th-grade reading and mathematics. The authors tracked the progress of more than 3.3 million US students who completed adaptive Star Assessments in the 2019–2020 school year (prior to school shutdowns) and throughout the 2020–2021 school year. 

To estimate the effect of the pandemic on academic performance, Renaissance used historical data to establish reasonable estimates for how each student would have been expected to perform during the 2020–2021 school year had COVID-19 not disrupted teaching and learning.

A key finding of the report is that, over the course of the year, reading and math performance have fallen farther behind pre-pandemic expectations. 

  • In reading, the report’s authors estimated that students ended the 2020–2021 school year, on average, 7 weeks behind expected progress. 
  • These estimates vary by grade, ranging from 3 weeks behind in grades 1–3 to 14 weeks behind in grade 8.
  • In math, students ended the school year an average of about 11 weeks behind expected progress. 
  • Estimates ranged from 5 weeks behind in grade 2 to 15 weeks behind in grade 6.

The report also found that the negative impacts of the pandemic have varied widely by student group, widening equity gaps.

  • On average, Black students finished the 2020–2021 school year 19 and 11 Percentile Rank points behind where they would have been in math and reading, respectively.
  • Students attending urban or Title I schools experienced more severe impacts than the overall averages, as did Latinx students, American Indian or Alaska Native students, students with disabilities, and English Language Learners.

“The pandemic had a disproportionate impact on students from different groups and communities,” said Dr. Katie McClarty, vice president of research and design at Renaissance, “and the results shown in How Kids Are Performing reflect that. As an education community, we need to have a disproportionate response and target students most in need. Our findings aim to give educators context at the national, state, and student group levels, and to offer them resources and support to interpret and act on their own data as we work toward accelerating learning.”

To help empower teachers this fall, Renaissance is providing the following resources:

  • Focus Skills in English and Spanish, so educators can target the most important learning at each grade level;
  • Trip Steps for Mathematics, showing the most difficult skills for students to master from grade 1 through Algebra 1;
  • A national webinar highlighting three key strategies for accelerating learning in the new school year; and
  • Helpful alignments between Renaissance products and ESSER funding under the CARES, CRRSA, and ARP Acts.

“Schools around the country will soon welcome students back this fall, and we should be prepared to accelerate learning with every tool at our disposal,” said Dr. Gene Kerns, vice president and chief academic officer at Renaissance. “How Kids Are Performing not only raises urgency for action by showing educators where their students are, but also provides guidance and tools that empower teachers to focus on where they’re going and how best to get there.”

The full How Kid Are Performing report is available at ​​

About Renaissance

As a global leader in assessment, reading, and math solutions for pre-K–12 schools and districts, Renaissance is committed to providing educators with insights and resources to accelerate growth and help all students build a strong foundation for success. Renaissance solutions reach more than 40% of US schools and more than a half million students in other regions across the world. The Renaissance portfolio includes Star Assessments, for reliable, accurate insights into K–12 student learning; myIGDIs, for accurate assessment of early learning; myON, to increase students’ access to high-quality reading materials; Accelerated Reader, to support independent reading practice; Freckle, for teacher-led differentiated instruction; Schoolzilla, to give educators actionable insights into trends in student attendance and achievement; Lalilo, to develop critical foundational skills; and Nearpod, for teacher-facilitated instructional delivery. For more information, visit

Press contact:
Tracy Stewart
Director, Marketing Development
(832) 651-1189
[email protected]

Choose your Reaction!