How Covid-19 Is Impacting the Student Achievement Gap

April 17, 2020

ANN ARBOR – There are many ways that the socioeconomic status and education level of parents relates to the cognitive outcomes of their children, and an achievement gap could be seen when schools return to face-to-face learning because of it, according to Pamela Davis-Kean, professor of psychology at the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts, and a research professor at the Institute for Social Research.

In this episode of Michigan Minds, Davis-Kean explains that with schools closed, it falls to parents to provide learning opportunities for their children, but many families are unequipped to do so.

“The achievement gap is defined by socioeconomic differences, and often presents itself in homework,” Davis-Kean says. “Higher-educated parents provide a more enriched learning environment for their children and are more connected to resources. Some people have set times for their kids to do schoolwork. Other kids don’t have that,” she says, adding that since some parents have jobs where they are considered “essential workers,” they may not be home and therefore not available.

Davis-Kean says there is a well-known phenomenon called the “summer achievement gap,” in which children who participate in cognitively stimulating camps or similar activities over the summer have an easier time adjusting back to school in the fall than those who aren’t involved in those types of activities.

She adds that researchers are tracking test differences and are already starting to see achievement gaps worsen with school closures.

“I think the concern is that the normative summer gap that we would see might actually be quite larger by the time the kids go back in the fall, if we are going to be back face-to-face,” she says, adding that many students will need additional resources in order to get back to grade-level.

“We could be living through a whole series of changes in people’s socioeconomic status related to [COVID-19] and that will, as we’ve seen in the past, have a big impact on children’s achievement, achievement in general, and the type of opportunities that are available for people to take advantage of,” Davis-Kean says.

Learn more in this episode of Michigan Minds.

You can download and subscribe to Michigan Minds from wherever you listen to podcasts: Apple Podcasts, Google Play, SoundCloud, Stitcher, and Spotify.