Distance learning hurt elementary school students' reading skills, Stanford study shows

ByDavid Louie KGO logo
Wednesday, March 10, 2021
Distance learning hurt elementary school reading skills
A new study by Stanford researchers suggests that distance learning has negatively impacted reading skills among elementary schools.

STANFORD, Calif. (KGO) -- A new Stanford study has documented that distance learning had a negative impact on the reading skills at the elementary school level. Education is a key pillar of Building a Better Bay Area.

Students and teachers alike had a steep learning curve when classes went virtual. Researchers at Stanford's Graduate School of Education say reading fluency suffered dramatically, especially among second and third grade students. This is an example from greatschools.org on how well they should be reading in third grade.

A girl reads, "One day in November 2006, a beekeeper in Florida went to check his beehives. What he saw, or rather did not see, was shocking."

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Instead, there was a 30 percent drop in fluency nationally from tests done using software from San Francisco-based Literably. More than 100,000 students across 22 states were given something to read.

"They then read that passage aloud and the iPad records that," explained Dr. Ben Domingue, assistant professor at the Stanford Graduate School of Education. "That recording is sent off-site to a scorer, who computes the number of words read correctly per minute by the student."

Teachers at San Jose's Gardner Elementary saw the same deficiency across all grade levels. Interactive reading exercises were added.

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"We've been able to provide intervention support beyond the teacher for students who are really struggling at this point," said Gardner Principal Margaret Petkiewicz.

Principal Petkiewicz and the lead Stanford researcher both said progress was made by fall. Reading fluency has an impact on other learning.

"Their educations have been transformed by this experience in a way that it's going to have long-lasting effects that we need to document," said Domingue.

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One year later, however, restoring fluency hasn't been achieved.

So there's catch-up to do?

"Oh, no question, no question, and it's going to take time," said Prinicpal Petkiewicz. "It's going to take us well into next year and potentially beyond to really close the gaps."