With billions of dollars in lost economic activity and untold squandered human potential, COVID-19 threatens to leave an enduring legacy. Especially at risk are students who have been least visible in the discourse about learning recovery and have the least amount of time to catch up: those currently enrolled in high school.

By one measure in an NWEA study, students who finished grade 8 during the 2022–23 school year faced a steeper climb to academic recovery than younger students. They would need an additional 7.4 months of learning in reading and 9.1 months in math to return to pre-pandemic achievement levels. That is a daunting amount of ground to make up in four years of high school, especially since the study found that older students had lost ground between fall 2022 and spring 2023.

It is not too late for state education leaders to highlight these students’ needs, restore opportunities the pandemic stole from them, and design a system that does right by future generations.

How State Leaders Can Stand Up for the COVID Generation of High Schoolers

Also In this Issue

Getting Students Engaged in Learning

By Jennifer A. Fredricks

Targeted interventions and savvy classroom practices, coupled with supportive state policy, can draw disengaged students back in.

Centering School Connectedness

By Robert Balfanz

High schools are creating student success teams that prioritize relationships and leverage actionable data to reconnect students to school.

Chronic Absence: A Call for Deeper Student and Family Engagement

By Hedy Chang

Connecticut's experience underscores the value of a positive, systemic approach to improving attendance.

Understanding Who Is Missing and Why

By Hailly T.N. Korman

The pandemic only magnified chronic absence among students with the greatest needs and made the problem harder to ignore.

How State Leaders Can Stand Up for the COVID Generation of High Schoolers

By Robin Lake and Travis Pillow

Families need better data on students' academic progress; students need meaningful learning experiences and better information on postsecondary options.

Reengaging High School Students through Career Academies

By Edward C. Fletcher Jr.

When built around four key elements, academies deliver rigorous, relevant learning tied to students' career aspirations.

Trauma-Informed Practices: A Whole-School Policy Framework

By Janet VanLone and Nicole Reddig

State leaders can ensure that more school staff are equipped to help children deal with the effects of trauma.

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