Pandemic’s impact on student achievement in Carmel not as bad as initially feared, at least so far 

This graph shows how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted student achievement in math and reading among Carmel Clay Schools students in first through fifth grade who have returned to the classroom in-person for the 2020-21 school year. (Image courtesy of Carmel Clay Schools)

It’s been more than a year since Carmel Clay Schools students have attended school “normally,” without masks or virtual learning options. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has dragged on long enough that school administrators have had enough time to gather data on the pandemic’s initial impact on student achievement, at least in part. 

CCS Assistant Supt. Amy Dudley presented the findings at the March 22 meeting of the CCS board of trustees. She only used data for elementary students in first through fifth grade that have returned to school full time, as it provides the most accurate comparison to data collected before the pandemic.  

The results? It’s not as bad as educators once thought it might be. 

Using NWEA testing results, CCS found that students experienced learning loss in reading and math from early 2020 to fall 2020, with math having the steeper drop. Both have rebounded during the school year, however, with reading achievement nearly identical to pre-pandemic levels and math scores nearly back to pre-pandemic levels. 

“It doesn’t look like we’ve had the great loss we feared,” CCS school board member Michael Kerschner said. “It’s comforting to me to know that yes, there was a loss, yes, this was a traumatic event for our students, but for the most part (student achievement levels) are coming back.” 

Dudley said it’s too early to know how much the pandemic has affected virtual or hybrid learners to this point, as the tests CCS would typically use to gauge student progress have not been taken in a standardized format. However, the district expects to get a first glimpse of the pandemic’s effects on virtual and hybrid students when it receives results for IREAD and ILEARN testing. Students are taking these tests at school this semester rather than at home. 

As overall student achievement rebounds, the testing results presented by Dudley showed some areas of concern for specific groups. 

In reading, only 32 percent of high ability students are at or above their fall 2019 NWEA percentile, compared to 49 percent of all students. Only 34 percent of Black students are at or above their fall 2019 percentile. 

Overall in math, 48 percent of students are at or above their fall 2019 percentile, with only 40 percent of students receiving free or reduced lunch back at those levels. Asian students made the biggest gain of all ethnic groups in either subject, with 65 percent of students at or above their fall 2019 percentile in math. 

Dudley said district officials will continue analyzing the data to determine what is causing the achievement gaps and how to close them. She said several measures are already in place or in progress, such as building multi-tiered support systems that address needs in and out of the classroom, expanded tutoring sessions and summer learning programs. 

Watch the presentation at


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