A round-up of recent developments around the evidence on COVID-19 and schools includes: (1) preliminary snapshots of elementary and secondary school students’ performance on standardized test scores in 2020–21, (2) a new examination of the role of small class sizes in reducing infection risk, and (3) many colleges requiring COVID-19 vaccination for students this fall.
Some places, including the state of Indiana, are getting preliminary glimpses at the results of spring standardized testing for students. It appears that performance on these assessments is consistent with studies—summarized in previous posts here, here, and here—showing sizable learning setbacks in the COVID-19 era relative to student performance on 2019 exams. Researchers have suggested caution in the use and interpretation of standardized assessment results from the 2020–21 school year.
A new working paper uses data from the Tennessee Project STAR experiment to explore whether smaller class sizes reduce infection risk. The paper is relevant to current policy considerations around COVID-19 mitigation in K-12 schools. While the author finds that small classes reduced absences, it does not appear to be due to reductions in the spread of infectious illnesses.
Many colleges and universities have announced COVID-19 vaccine requirements for students and, at some institutions, faculty and staff. The Chronicle of Higher Education maintains a running list and map with updated information on vaccine mandates. Of the nation’s 4,000 degree-granting institutions, approximately 10% are requiring the vaccine for students learning in-person this fall. Even those without mandates are strongly encouraging vaccination through incentives and benefits for vaccinated students.