Michigan students who learned remotely for all or most of last school year learned less than those who were in classrooms, according to an analysis of student-level test data released today.

In a challenging school year when all groups learned less than normal, remote learners fared worse than peers who attended schools in person, as did those from marginalized groups who were already struggling academically.

The report serves as confirmation of what many educators had feared during the 2020-21 school year, when students in many districts lurched between in-person and online learning because of the pandemic.

“The learning gaps got bigger, and this is a major equity problem,” said Katharine Strunk, director of Michigan State University’s Education Policy Innovation Collaboration, which released the 350-page data-rich analysis on Monday.

Strunk said the report’s data could serve as a guide for school officials and policymakers weighing whether to close schools during COVID outbreaks or future pandemics.

While average test scores increased from fall to spring regardless of how instruction was delivered, the growth was consistently larger in districts that offered in-person instruction all year than in schools that were remote all or part of the year. As a result, gaps between average test scores widened over the course of the year, Strunk said.

And those gaps could be even wider than the data show. Remote students took the tests at home, so it’s impossible to know whether they were helped by caregivers, EPIC researchers said in their report.

Read the full article about remote learning loss by Tracie Mauriello at Chalkbeat Detroit.