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Press Release

COVID-19’s impact on school enrollment, test scores and teacher turnover could have lasting consequences

The COVID-19 pandemic led to lower public school enrollment, lower test scores and – eventually – higher teacher turnover, according to a new report from the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland.

Those changes could have long-term repercussions, according to the report, “COVID-19 and Education: An Updated Survey of the Research.”

A few key findings from the report, which summarizes results from several research papers released since 2021:

  • Impact on enrollment: Public school enrollment fell for those schools that went completely virtual, especially for earlier grades. One study in the analysis estimated that public school enrollment fell by 300,000 nationally.
  • Impact on learning: Standardized test scores fell nationwide. For instance, one study analyzing data for grades 3-8 in 11 states found that, from 2019 to 2021, average pass rates fell by 12.8 percentage points in math and 6.8 percentage points in English language arts. High poverty schools were hit hardest, according to another study cited in the report.
  • Impact on turnover: Teacher turnover didn’t rise at the start of the pandemic but did eventually increase, according to four studies focused on different states.

In the report, senior research economist Peter Hinrichs cites research describing how these changes could affect public schools and their students over time.

“The extent to which these effects will persist remains to be seen, although they may have important consequences for the economy,” Hinrichs writes.

Read the Economic Commentary: COVID-19 and Education: An Updated Survey of the Research

Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland

The Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland is one of 12 regional Reserve Banks that along with the Board of Governors in Washington DC comprise the Federal Reserve System. Part of the US central bank, the Cleveland Fed participates in the formulation of our nation’s monetary policy, supervises banking organizations, provides payment and other services to financial institutions and to the US Treasury, and performs many activities that support Federal Reserve operations System-wide. In addition, the Bank supports the well-being of communities across the Fourth Federal Reserve District through a wide array of research, outreach, and educational activities.

The Cleveland Fed, with branches in Cincinnati and Pittsburgh, serves an area that comprises Ohio, western Pennsylvania, eastern Kentucky, and the northern panhandle of West Virginia.

Media contact

Chuck Soder,, 216.672.2798