Children the world over experienced deficits equivalent to one-third of a school year’s learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new global analysis.

Two years later, they have not recovered from the learning losses, which have been more profound for children in developing countries and among low-income children, according to the analysis published in the journal Nature Human Behavior.

Researchers examined 42 studies from 15 countries, finding “a substantial overall learning deficit which arose early in the pandemic and persists over time.”

Learning deficits are more extensive in math than in reading, and in middle-income countries relative to high-income countries, the report said.

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Utah student test scores declined during pandemic, but less than national peers

The New York Times reported that “the findings suggest that the challenges of remote learning — coupled with other stressors that plagued children and families throughout the pandemic — were not rectified when school doors reopened.”

Bastian Betthäuser, a researcher at the Center for Research on Social Inequalities at Sciences Po in Paris and a co-author of the analysis, told the Times, “In order to recover what was lost, we have to be doing more than just getting back to normal.”

Some 1.6 billion children worldwide missed a significant amount of classroom time during the pandemic’s peak, the Times reported.

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How did the COVID-19 pandemic affect student performance? Utah data is ‘sobering and concerning’

Earlier reviews of the pandemic’s impacts on academic performance in Utah foreshadowed some of the findings of the global analysis, particularly the more pronounced effects among certain racial and ethnic groups as well as English language learners and students with disabilities.

According to an October 2021 report by the Utah State Board of Education and The National Center for the Improvement of Educational Assessment, Inc., “We are observing in some cases over two times the declines in student achievement in Utah compared to the effects attributed to Hurricane Katrina on students from New Orleans.”

Understanding the full extent of the impacts is limited by available data, suggesting the effects may have been underestimated.

“This speaks to the necessity of helping all students in Utah with learning recovery going forward. It also highlights the urgency of identifying the missing students and providing targeted support to these and other traditionally lower-performing student groups to prevent them from falling into an academic spiral,” the Utah report states.