Effects of COVID-19 on Educational Outcomes

February 21, 2023 Jin Koo and Keith Wright

Photo of students in a classroom

An Enrollment Management Association Special Report
February 2023

The Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has disrupted students’ academic progress and mental health across the country.

According to the latest results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), in reading and quantitative scores, there have been significant declines in fourth and eighth grades since the onset of the pandemic. Furthermore, a study conducted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that more than 30% of high school students who were part of the study reported concerns related to mental health, such as feelings of sadness or hopelessness. In this limited research study, the overall SSAT and Character Skills Snapshot score change patterns across the two years (2019-20 and 2021-22 academic years) are examined for the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on students’ cognitive and non-cognitive outcomes. In addition, the SSAT score changes before and after the pandemic are examined across student and school characteristics, including gender, race/ethnicity, ability level, and school type.

This study focused on SSAT scores in verbal, reading, and quantitative before the pandemic closed schools (August 2019 through March 2020) for the Pre-COVID year and August 2021 through March 2022 for the Post-COVID year. And, for Character Skills Snapshot scores in the areas of intellectual engagement, initiative, open-mindedness, resilience, and self-control as these are seen as most relevant for impacting academic factors.

The study includes data from 75,000+ domestic students who took the SSAT and 30,000+ students who took the Character Skills Snapshot. Data was analyzed from both Middle (grades 5–7) and Upper (grades 8–11) levels.

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About the Author

Jin Koo and Keith Wright

Dr. Jin Koo is the senior psychometrician and technical lead for EMA assessments and conducts all aspects of the work necessary for score reporting, including scoring, item analysis, equating, quality assurance, trend analysis, and research, to shape and fulfill the requirements for the assessment programs. Before this role, she served EMA as a project manager in test development for four years. Dr. Keith Wright is EMA’s VP of Psychometrics & Assessments, where he uses his extensive background in statistical research, academic administration, and computer science to improve our SSAT and assessment programs. He conducts test score reporting and performs other key functions, such as item analysis, quality assurance, trend analysis, and research.

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