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Studies show how the pandemic has increased learning loss in West MI

State leaders say help is on the way.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — It's no secret that the pandemic has hurt education efforts here in Michigan and while we can't know the full impact just yet, the numbers, so far, are troubling.

After comparing test scores and attendance in schools in Michigan before the pandemic and shortly after, we're ON YOUR SIDE with some of the concerning results and what's being done about them. 

Talk to almost any educator and they will tell you Michigan’s education system was struggling even before the pandemic hit. Now, two years later, everything from test scores to attendance has gotten even worse.

In one example, take third grade M-STEP math scores. According to the Michigan's Official Education Data Source, the school year before the pandemic (2018-19), 46.7% of students had average or above average scores. Last year (2020-21), that number had dropped to 42.3%.

The trend continued into eighth grade, with 69% testing with average scores before the pandemic compared to 63.1% last year.

As for attendance, the state has lost more than 70,000 students in just a two-year period (1,507,772 in 2018/19 compared to 1,437,612 in 2020/21).

Brenda Busscher has more than three decades of experience in Education. She said, “The things that I’m seeing in kids is a lack of confidence. Just the requirements they have are so, they’re so demanding and I think kids are just being – are very overwhelmed by it. So, I think, I’m seeing more emotional issues from the students.”

More recently, she’s working even closer to students after starting Higher Horizons Tutoring Center four years ago.

“With the COVID and how that has impacted our education and just the way that students are taught, whether it’s virtually or in person, it just has changed so much,” said Busscher.

State leaders say help is on the way. There are nearly $6 billion in federal COVID-19 aid still available, with the Department of Education still working out where that money will go.

Plus, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer recently laid out an $18 billion education plan to increase per pupil funding, invest in recruiting teachers, and raise pay for those teachers.

“There’s a heightened awareness with the parents now and with educators, too, to do something different for the kids who were literally falling through the cracks," Busscher  said.

A new Education Policy Innovation Collaborative (EPIC) report also found schools that kept students in the class year-round fared better than districts that did more virtual learning. It shows schools that only offered remote learning saw learning loss in math double that of districts offering in-person learning.

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