LITTLE FALLS, NJ -- Patricia Morgan, Executive Director of JerseyCan, a company focused on creating lasting changes for New Jersey students, spoke with TAPinto TV’s Brian Brodeur about the academic slide brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic in New Jersey. 

JerseyCan’s study, “A Time to Act,” examined diagnostic fall assessments of 18,000 students across fifteen schools, grades three to eight. “We felt it was important to look across the state of New Jersey, use real New Jersey students, real New Jersey data, to understand the impact of COVID across our state to help our education recovery for our students,” Morgan said. 

Unfortunately, the study’s results were alarming. During the fall of 2020, students lost 30% of learning in English and 36% of learning in Math. In addition, the study reports that since the pandemic began, 143,000 New Jersey students fell behind grade level in English, and 129,000 NJ students fell behind grade level in Math. 

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“Our students were not progressing as we would have wanted them,” Morgan explained. “Because of the closures last spring, the summer slide, and now this less-than-expected growth, only about one in three students are on grade-level in English, and only one in four students are now on grade-level in math.” 

These statistics are even more troublesome for New Jersey low-income Black and Latinx students. showing these students lost more learning in both English and Math than their peers. “For our Black students, the loss was about 43% in English and about 50% in Math. They had the biggest losses,” Morgan said.    

Although New Jersey’s education system is often regarded as one of the best in the country, ranking first in the nation in 2021, according to U.S.News & World Report, Morgan notes that there have been long-standing achievement gaps. 

“The achievement gap is the difference in performance between our average and our more wealthy students and our economically disadvantaged students and our students with different subgroup characteristics,” Morgan explains. “There were significant achievement gaps and opportunity gaps before COVID.” 

Before COVID, some NJ students were already half a year to a full year behind grade level. “When we add that 50% of learning was lost in the first half of the school year, that’s setting students even further back. That’s what really troubles us. That’s why we feel that we need this data to start a broad conversation across the state with as many stakeholders as possible,” Morgan said.

To help mitigate this learning loss, Morgan urges families to prioritize summer learning to get students back on track. “This could be summer school, but it could also be summer camps. It could be high dosage tutoring. It can be any learning over the summer so that we don’t have more students falling behind,” Morgan said.

To learn more about JerseyCan and to read their study, visit: https://jerseycan.org.