RSF Author and Former Visiting Scholar Sean Reardon Discusses Pandemic Learning Loss

December 8, 2022

In an interview with the Stanford Graduate School of Education, RSF author and former visiting scholar Sean Reardon (Stanford University) discussed the Education Recovery Scorecard, a research collaboration between researchers at the Center for Education Policy Research at Harvard University (CEPR) and Stanford University’s Educational Opportunity Project, which measures district-level learning loss during the pandemic.

When looking at school district academic performance, the research team found that test scores in 2022 were notably lower than test scores in 2019. On average, students in 2022 tested between one-third to one-half of a grade level lower than students in 2019. Reardon states that high-poverty school districts saw larger declines in test scores than low-poverty school districts. Additionally, learning loss was greater in school districts that relied more heavily on remote learning during the pandemic as opposed to in-person learning. However, Reardon argues that whether a district utilized remote or in-person learning was not the only cause of learning loss. Family disruptions such as job loss and illness, as well as the mental health impact of the pandemic on children also contributed to learning loss. 

Reardon stresses that while the pandemic exacerbated educational inequality, it did not create it. He contends that we need to work not only to undo the damage done by the pandemic but to go further to combat educational inequality and inequality of opportunity. He states that this will require sustained effort and economic investment to improve schools as well as communities and to help families better position their children for success. 

Sean Reardon is Endowed Professor of Poverty and Inequality in Education and professor of education and (by courtesy) sociology at Stanford University. Reardon is a former RSF visiting scholar, a contributor to RSF volumes Diversity and Disparities and Whither Opportunity?, a contributor to RSF: Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences issues “Growing Up Rural,” “Using Administrative Data for Science and Policy,”“Spatial Foundations of Inequality,” and “The Coleman Report and Educational Inequality Fifty Years Later,”and is a recipient of multiple RSF research grants.

Watch the interview.
Learn more about the Education Recovery Scorecard.


RSF: The Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences is a peer-reviewed, open-access journal of original empirical research articles by both established and emerging scholars.


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