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Many students in the US are still grappling with setbacks caused by the pandemic, with millions struggling to make significant academic progress

Fifth-grade kids attend a match class (Via Marshal Grint/Getty Images)

In one part of the classroom, students gathered around teacher Maria Fletcher to practice vowel sounds. In another corner, children read together from a book. Some students worked independently on laptops, receiving reading support from online tutors.

For third graders at Mount Vernon Community School in Virginia, it was a typical school day. However, educators were working urgently to boost student learning and overcome setbacks that have persisted since schools closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic four years ago.

Schools across America have begun to make progress in helping students catch up. Yet, this progress has been slow and uneven depending on location and economic status. Many students, especially those from marginalized backgrounds, have struggled to recover lost ground.

According to the Education Recovery Scorecard by researchers from Harvard and Stanford, nationally students have regained about one-third of their pandemic-related losses in math and one-quarter in reading over the past school year.

However, in nine states, including Virginia, reading scores continued to decline during the 2022-23 school year, following previous drops during the pandemic.

Third-grade kids in English language class (Via Marshal Grint/Getty Images)

A significant challenge in the recovery effort is the impending financial strain. While states have used some of the $190 billion in federal pandemic relief funds to support student catch-up efforts, this funding is set to run out later this year.

“The recovery is ongoing, and it will require state action,” said Thomas Kane, an economist from Harvard involved in the scorecard. “States need to begin planning for what comes next when federal funding ends in September. Few states have begun this discussion.”

Last year, Virginia lawmakers approved an additional $418 million to accelerate recovery efforts. In Massachusetts, officials allocated $3.2 million for math tutoring for fourth and eighth graders who are behind grade level, along with $8 million for literacy tutoring.

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