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CogAT K-12 Ability Assessments

The Impact of COVID on Learning and Cognitive Ability

Riverside Insights
Written By Riverside Insights
On Jul 1, 2020
15 minute read

As school resumes later this year, achievement testing and benchmarking will be of utmost importance to evaluate where students are academically.  Adding measures of student ability to the equation should be equally important as we strive to understand what students need and how best to help them catch up. The Cognitive Abilities Test™ (CogAT®) is an important tool for understanding each student’s capacity to learn and their areas of strength and opportunity to help teachers target instruction appropriately for the greatest gains in achievement.  


The jury is out on how school interruptions and closures due to the Coronavirus pandemic will affect student achievement in 2020 and following school years.  While no one questions that we will see an effect, we cannot be certain how large and how lasting it will be.  Different school systems, and even groups within these systems, differed in terms of capacity and resources with which to address the challenge. Students already most at risk due to lack of opportunity or unstable living environment may be those most adversely affected by a “COVID slide” in achievement. 


"...the detriment to skill growth for young students may have long-term implications for their future academic progress."


While we can only anticipate the wealth of educational research to come which will examine this crisis, we do know that the results will vary dramatically based student access to e-learning and technology.  Data released in May 2020 by the Chicago Public Schools indicated that 40% of their students logged into e-learning fewer than three days a week.  Despite CPS providing over 100,000 laptops and tablets to students who needed them, fully one-fourth of CPS’ 350,000 students did not log in at all during the week of May 11th.  Engagement was also unequal across grade levels, with young students in grades 1 and 2 and high schoolers being much less likely to log into e-learning on a regular basis.  While high schoolers may be more self-sufficient – or may have “checked out” of learning – the detriment to skill growth for young students may have long-term implications for their future academic progress. 


With so much focus on the pandemic’s effect on student achievement and learning, there has been far less conjecture about its effect on student ability.  Student ability is fundamentally different from achievement, although the two are closely related.  A student’s ability to learn continues to grow and change whether students are engaged in programmatic schooling or not.  While not entirely innate, student ability is closely linked to maturational and developmental growth – particularly for young students. Students with higher ability will benefit from an accelerated pace and more able to make up deficits due to this year’s school interruptions.  Those students with lower ability are going to need even more help and well-targeted instruction in order to reach grade-level expectations in the coming years. 


Making use of CogAT outside of its common niche in gifted and talented identification is one key step educators should take to best serve students when school resumes.  CogAT provides valuable insight into students’ potential for learning and targeted strategies for differentiated instruction.  Paired and contrasted with achievement measures, CogAT helps to highlight opportunities for student growth.  Using every tool available to understand students’ potential and needs will be more important than ever in the coming year as we seek to get students back on track.  In several upcoming posts, we will offer specific guidance for how teachers and parents can use CogAT to positively impact students’ learning and achievement.  Please view this brief video for more information on CogAT. 

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