Using Pre-Tests to Address the COVID Knowledge Slide

10.30.2020 | Why NOCTI

The “summer slide” refers to knowledge loss occurring while a student is away from the classroom during summer vacation. Also referred to as “summer learning loss” or “summer set back,” this phenomenon has been studied by researchers and educators since the early 20th century. Previous studies have found students lose anywhere from two weeks to two months of academic growth over the summer. However, many educators have braced for a new kind of knowledge slide this year.

What Is the COVID Slide?

Back in March, many schools cut their academic calendars short to help curb the spread of COVID-19. Unfortunately, this meant more time away from the classroom for students and a risk of a larger than normal summer knowledge slide. The “COVID Slide” as many have dubbed it, may be significantly worse than first predicted. Researchers at the Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA) projected students may retain only about 70% of their reading progress and are in danger of losing half to all of their progress in math.

While most schools have started their new academic years on schedule (many with virtual learning options in place), the full effect of the “COVID Slide” will be difficult to accurately quantify and is likely to differ from student to student. For some, it may take months to regain knowledge loss.

Career and technical education (CTE) is a vital part of preparing students for success in the workplace. It provides learners with opportunities to develop industry-specific skills and to gain real-world experience early on in their career development. Supporting both CTE programs and individual CTE students will be a critical component of how we recover from COVID-19 and learn how to mitigate future educational disruptions.

Benefits of Pre-Testing

Even under normal circumstances, the “summer slide” has a more pronounced impact on some students than others. For example, knowledge loss has typically been higher for low-income students and students at higher grade levels. CTE students may be particularly vulnerable to the COVID knowledge slide due to the hands-on and technical nature of instruction.

Advance CTE recommends leveraging and adapting “early warning systems” to help address these equity gaps among CTE students:

“Early warning systems often examine attendance, behavior and course performance to identify ‘at-risk’ learners. These indicators can be modified to reflect the impact of COVID-19 (coronavirus) on learners’ ability to succeed in education and workforce programs.”

Pre-tests from NOCTI offer a way for educators to accurately determine a student’s baseline technical knowledge and identify any knowledge loss that may have occurred during school closures. NOCTI has a substantial library of pre-tests in over 125 occupational areas.

Measure Knowledge Losses

As mentioned above, a pre-test identifies and quantifies a student’s technical knowledge. This will be a critical step for educators and students as they seek to remedy any knowledge loss that occurred over the extended summer vacation. Pre-testing with NOCTI is a standardized process used to quickly and accurately gain insight into the knowledge loss of individual students, entire classes, and even students across an entire state.

Develop Individualized Plans

NOCTI provides detailed reporting with every test administered. Reports include competency-level sub-scores that may be used to pinpoint specific areas of knowledge loss. This specific and detailed reporting helps create individualized plans for catching up if losses are identified, and enables teachers and students to target specific areas needing improvement.

Prepare for Future Losses

The COVID knowledge slide is unlike the “normal” summer slide. Not only have we had difficulties predicting its impact, but its effect will also vary by state, by school, and even by individual student. Measuring knowledge losses now will be critical as we prepare for the possibility of similar events in the future.

We strongly encourage educators to research and invest in resources enabling students to engage in CTE content in the event of further learning disruptions. Essex North Shore Agricultural and Technical School in Massachusetts is one example of how CTE teachers are taking a creative approach to online learning. Their solutions include:

  • Environmental science students taking “field trips” safely within their neighborhoods
  • Cosmetology students practicing skills at home with mannequin heads
  • Veterinary science students watching live-web cams at zoos and pet day-cares
  • Culinary students interviewing family members and recording themselves making a dish

Reassure Stakeholders

In May, a survey from the Education Week Research Center reported the following findings:

  • Teachers are working fewer hours per day
  • Teachers are spending less time teaching new material
  • Student engagement is declining
  • Truancy remains high (especially among high school students and low-income students)
  • Access and connectivity gaps are prevalent

Understandably, stakeholders are anxious to see CTE teachers maintain rigorous instruction during COVID-19. Administering pre-tests not only identifies knowledge losses but also provides a solid foundation from which to measure future learning gains. This specific and quantifiable data will help reassure stakeholders and demonstrate CTE program effectiveness now and in the event of future disruptions.

Administer Pre-Tests with NOCTI

With over fifty years of experience in CTE, we are dedicated to delivering the best possible solutions for increasing students’ technical competence. Our comprehensive services and credentialing solutions are designed to equip students with the skills and knowledge for success and to help educators and administrators demonstrate program validity.

We recommend pre-testing CTE students at every grade level with an applicable NOCTI credential to identify potential knowledge loss from the COVID Slide. Pre-tests are available for fall 2020. Orders should be placed by November 15 and pre-tests administered by December 31. NOCTI pre-tests include detailed, competency-based reporting at the student, teacher, and school levels and are administered in a proctored environment through NOCTI’s online testing system (remote proctoring is available if needed). Please don’t hesitate to contact us with any questions. Our team is happy to talk more with you on the benefits of pre-testing and how to best ensure your students regain any knowledge lost in the COVID Slide.