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The resiliency of school outcomes after the COVID-19 pandemic. Standardised test scores and inequality one year after long term school closures


  • Letizia Gambi
  • Kristof De Witte


Almost two years after the largest disruption of education in history, the question remains as to whether, and to what extent, school outcomes are resilient and inequality persists. To answer these questions, this paper exploits a unique panel data-set with standardised test scores and administrative data pertaining to the last year of primary education in the Flemish region of Belgium. For the subjects of native language (Dutch), math, science, social science and foreign language (French), exactly the same standardised tests were administered in 2019 (pre-pandemic), 2020 and 2021. Our empirical specification-cation captures (un)observed heterogeneity at school level, a time trend, and time-varying control variables. The resilience in school outcomes differs per subject as we observe additional attainment deficits in the Dutch and French language one year after the pandemic. For math, the impact of the COVID-19 school closures is halted, but not reversed yet. For science, students in the 2021 cohort have started catching up (though insignificantly) with previous cohorts, while the 2021 test scores improved significantly for social sciences. Notwithstanding the halted attainment deficits in math in 2021, a quantile analysis suggests that the math test scores of the best-performing students in a school (i.e., quantile 70 to 95) have significantly declined, while those of low performing students seem to have slightly improved (though insignificantly). One year after the COVID-19 school closures, the inequality within schools seems to have increased in the Dutch language and decreased in mathematics. Further, the findings suggest that targeted remedial actions (in particular summer schools), which were mainly focusing on the most vulnerable students, were successful in halting attainment deficits. However, further policy attention should also be given to the best-performing students, who seem to fall behind one year after the pandemic.

Suggested Citation

  • Letizia Gambi & Kristof De Witte, 2021. "The resiliency of school outcomes after the COVID-19 pandemic. Standardised test scores and inequality one year after long term school closures," Working Papers of LEER - Leuven Economics of Education Research 682557, KU Leuven, Faculty of Economics and Business (FEB), LEER - Leuven Economics of Education Research.
  • Handle: RePEc:ete:leerwp:682557
    Note: paper number DPS21.12

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    COVID-19; School closures; Attainment deficits; Educational attainment; Standardised tests;
    All these keywords.

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