05 SES 15 A, Preventing and Reducing Educational Risks during the COVID-19 Pandemic
Suspension of face-to-face instruction in schools during the COVID-19 pandemic has led to concerns about consequences for student learning. So far, data to study this question have been limited. Here we evaluate the effect of school closures on primary school performance using exceptionally rich data from the Netherlands (n≈350,000). We use the fact that national exams took place before and after lockdown, and compare progress during this period to the same period in the three previous years. The Netherlands underwent only a relatively short lockdown (8 weeks), and features an equitable system of school funding and the world's highest rate of broadband access. Still, our results reveal a learning loss of about 3 percentile points or 0.08 standard deviations. The effect is equivalent to a fifth of a school year, the same period that schools remained closed. Losses are up to 60% larger among students from less-educated homes, confirming worries about the uneven toll of the pandemic on children and families. Investigating mechanisms, we find that most of the effect reflects the cumulative impact of knowledge learned rather than transitory influences on the day of testing. Results remain robust when balancing on the estimated propensity of treatment and using maximum entropy weights, or with fixed-effects specifications that compare students within the same school and family. The findings imply that students made little or no progress whilst learning from home, and suggest losses even larger in countries with weaker infrastructure or longer school closures.
Andrew, A., Cattan, S., Dias, M. C., et al. (2020). Inequalities in children’s experiences of home learning during the COVID-19 lockdown in England. Fiscal Studies, 41(3), 653-683. Azevedo, J. P., Hasan, A., Goldemberg, et al. (2020). Simulating the potential impacts of covid-19 school closures on schooling and learning outcomes: A set of global estimates. World Bank Policy Research Working Paper. Di Pietro, G., Biagi, F., Costa, P., et al. (2020). The likely impact of COVID-19 on education: Reflections based on the existing literature and recent international datasets. Publications Office of the European Union. Downey, D. B., Von Hippel, P. T., and Broh, B. A. (2004). Are schools the great equalizer? Cognitive inequality during the summer months and the school year. American Sociological Review 69, 613–635. Kuhfeld, M., Soland, J., Tarasawa, B., et al. (2020). Projecting the potential impact of COVID-19 school closures on academic achievement. Educational Researcher, 49(8), 549-565. Marcotte, D. E., and Hemelt, S. W. (2008). Unscheduled school closings and student performance. Education Finance and Policy 3, 316–338. Reimers, F. M., & Schleicher, A. (2020). A framework to guide an education response to the COVID-19 Pandemic of 2020. OECD.
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