COVID‐19 school closures and educational achievement gaps in Canada: Lessons from Ontario summer learning research
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The 2020 COVID-19 pandemic closed most Canadian public schools for six consecutive months between March and September. This paper explores possible impacts of that closure on student achievement. Longstanding research suggests that lengthy periods of time out of school generally create losses of literacy and numeracy skills and widen student achievement gaps. New American studies have attributed sizeable learning losses to the COVID-19 closures. In lieu of comparable Canadian data, this paper extrapolates from summer learning research to estimate likely shortfalls in literacy and numeracy skills. We draw on data from 14 cohorts of Ontario primary-grade students collected between 2010 and 2015 in which 3,723 attended summer programs and 12,290 served as controls. Across three plausible scenarios, we use meta analyses and OLS and quintile regression models to predict learning losses of 3.5 and 6.5 months among typically-performing and lower-performing students respectively, and achievement gaps that grow up to 1.5 years among same grade peers. After qualifying these predictions, we recommend that provincial ministries offer targeted supplementary programs during the summer and synchronous instruction in the event of future school closures.
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