The coronavirus pandemic forced most California public schools to close their doors since March, an incident that many believe has deeply affected students’ learning progress in the region.

However, a recent study found that the health crisis’s effect on the education sector could be much more severe than what officials initially feared. The observation discovered that there had been significant impacts in the arts and math section, the majority of which could be seen in lower grades and disadvantaged kids.

Slower Student Learning

The researchers who conducted the study found a 7% slower learning rate among kids from low-income families compared to other fourth-graders who showed a 5% increase in learning speed, bringing the overall disparity to 12%. The study looked at the assessment scores in 18 California districts between 2019 and 2020.

“Those students that are low-income are learning substantially less than students who are not low-income. It’s widening that gap, that’s what we’re concerned about,” the executive director of Policy Analysis for California Education, Heather J. Hough, said.

The study that Hough co-authored found that students, particularly those in middle and high school grades, were able to learn more than in previous years. However, she argued that more research was needed to determine the exact cause of the change.

Hough and her team noted that the increase in learning capacity could be due to several factors, including students’ becoming comfortable with technology, changes in how tests are handled online, and that there are fewer students assessed than in earlier years.

The study came as many have become anxious about the future of schools in the United States amid the coronavirus pandemic. There has been increasing evidence supporting the fact that students are having difficulties catching up with their studies as education grows even more remotely.

On Tuesday, the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) referenced a study that observed K-12 schools in five Wisconsin districts. It found that there were only 191 reported COVID-19 cases among 5,530 students and school staff. Additionally, only seven of the cases were believed to have been infections caused while students were inside school premises.

“Despite widespread community transmission, COVID-19 incidence in schools conducting in-person instruction was 37% lower than that in the surrounding community,” said the researchers.

Several teacher unions within California have called State Governor Gavin Newsom’s $2 billion plan last month inadequate despite being focused on helping schools reopen, Mercury News reported.

However, researchers argued that the most crucial result of the study was that younger students, particularly those from low-income families or non-English native speakers, had a slower learning rate. The study is expected to continue a more detailed assessment of the data in the coming weeks.

“We wanted to get this out now, even though it’s preliminary, so we could get some of the early analysis into the conversation,” Hough said after her team decided to release early results of the study to the public.