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Back to school, but not caught up: After school reopenings, administrators eager to tackle learning loss continue to face challenges

In this report, we update our ongoing research on five school systems to reveal the academic, social, and political challenges posed by the pandemic and what system leaders and their staff are doing to address student learning loss. 

The report is part of the American School District Panel, a research partnership between the RAND Corporation and the Center on Reinventing Public Education. 

Key findings include: 

  • Student absences and staff shortages have sidelined the adoption of academic acceleration strategies.  
  • Districts are working hard to rebuild teacher capacity and collect better data on student performance.
  • Some districts are turning back to familiar instructional strategies developed before the pandemic. Others are offering different types of support for student academic recovery to address learning loss. 
  • The pandemic has changed district priorities and reshaped the work of  superintendents and senior administrators. 

Districts haven’t given up on restoring lost learning or improving classroom instruction. But to help students who spent months out of school, they’re applying high-dosage tutoring, project-based learning and career-infused education in a piecemeal fashion, rather than pursuing academic acceleration as a comprehensive approach.

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