False Signals

How Pandemic-Era Grades Mislead Families and Threaten Student Learning

False Signals publication cover.

Students’ academic performance and attendance dropped significantly from before the pandemic to after. Their grades did not.

In the aftermath of the pandemic, public schools nationwide face profound challenges. Student test scores are down, absenteeism is at an all-time high, and educators are working tirelessly to bridge the learning gap. But research shows families believe that everything is back to normal or will be soon.

Our new report, written with EdNavigator and Learning Heroes, explores this disconnect by looking at the relationship between attendance, learning, and grades—and the critical signals those grades are sending to families. We partnered with two school districts to analyze their data both before and after the pandemic. Across the board, more students were both chronically absent and not yet on grade level. But their grades, families’ most trusted indicator of academic standing, tended to remain the same, or were even higher.

How can families truly know if their students need more support when they’re getting false signals?

The solution goes beyond grades; this isn’t just about assigning more Cs and Ds. What matters most: helping families understand the importance of getting their kids to school and helping school systems share a more realistic picture of students’ performance, especially when young people are below grade level.

To learn more, download the report.

Imali Ariyarathne, seventh-grade teacher at Langston Hughes Academy, stands in front of her students while introducing them to the captivating world of science

Imali Ariyarathne, seventh-grade teacher at Langston Hughes Academy, introduces her students to the captivating world of science.

About TNTP

TNTP is the nation’s leading research, policy, and consulting organization dedicated to transforming America’s public education system, so that every generation thrives.

Today, we work side-by-side with educators, system leaders, and communities across 39 states and over 6,000 districts nationwide to reach ambitious goals for student success.

Yet the possibilities we imagine push far beyond the walls of school and the education field alone. We are catalyzing a movement across sectors to create multiple pathways for young people to achieve academic, economic, and social mobility.

Learn More About TNTP