Research Spotlight: New Study Shows Students’ Experiences Varied during the COVID-19 Pandemic  

Researchers from the University of California released a paper this month examining the disparate impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on school students. The pandemic exacerbated longstanding educational inequities in student academic performance and mental health outcomes based on race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status.

Data from students across the United States during the 2020-21 school year shows:

  • Pre-existing achievement gaps in reading and math widened notability for students of color and those from high-poverty school districts.
  • Absenteeism and grade retention increased at higher rates for Black and Hispanic students, who were more likely to attend schools negatively impacted by the transition to remote learning.
  • School closures were more typical in underserved communities, and low-income families had limited access to traditional in-person instruction and high-quality remote learning experiences.
  • The pandemic led to widespread increases in fear, anxiety, depression, loneliness, and behavioral issues for students of all ages, regardless of race, ethnicity, or socioeconomic status.
  • School engagement rates were highest among students from households with higher incomes and parental education levels.

Black and Hispanic students were more likely than White students to feel very or extremely worried about the pandemic. They reported disproportionately high rates of COVID-related stress despite their caregivers being less likely than white caregivers to report concerns about their children’s mental health in the wake of school closures.