Educational Research for COVID-19 Response


These resources highlight research syntheses and recommendations about the effectiveness of potential actions for responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. The focus is on sources which review the broader literature rather than individual studies. Note that this does not summarize what various educational agencies are currently doing, since that is both fast-changing and vast in scope, and since it is not always clear what the research basis may be that underpins those decisions.

Major sources for aggregated reports

General guidance

U.S. Dept. of Education COVID-19 Handbook vol. 2: Roadmap to Reopening Safely and Meeting All Students’ Needs

  • Creating safe and healthy learning environments. Addressing lost instructional time. Supporting educator and staff stability and well-being.

Summaries by topic

Digital learning

Assessment and differentiation

Measuring and addressing unfinished learning



Student engagement, socioemotional learning, and school climate

Focal populations

Family engagement / At-home supports

Staff supports

  • Digital Professional Learning for K-12 Teachers: Literature Review and Analysis (WestEd; 2020 Dec)
    • Well-designed virtual communities of practice support implementation. Customization (software features, personalized goal-setting, modes for content delivery and assessment) can encourage more active engagement. Learning may be extended through asynchronous access to archived resources, collaboration with colleagues, continuous improvement cycles, and monitoring student progress. Strong and seamless facilitation helps; digital access opens up possibilities for virtual coaches and outside experts, although local facilitators can offer immediate feedback and contextual knowledge. Layer multiple modalities, with job-embedded learning opportunities and opportunities for social interaction.
  • Remote Professional Development: Rapid Evidence Assessment. (2020 Sep)
    • 1-pg summary. Remote coaching, mentoring, and expert support can be effective alone or to complement PD programs. Video is particularly effective for enabling teachers to reflect on teaching practice, if paired with other resources (e.g., viewing guides, coaching conversations). More interactive content increases time on task and completion rates. Collegial collaboration may improve outcomes through reflective practice and collective problem-solving. Supportive school conditions include leader support, protected time, and effective technology platforms and training.
  • District systems to support equitable and high-quality teaching and learning. (ERR; 2020 Sep)
  • Sustaining teacher training in a shifting environment. (ERR; 2020 Jul)

Systems and operations

  • Accelerating Student Learning with High-Dosage Tutoring. (ERR; 2021 Feb)
    • Tutoring is most effective at high dosage (i.e., 3+ sessions per week), in small groups (i.e., up to 3-4 students), and during the school day (compared to after-school or summer programs).
    • Tutors need adequate training and ongoing support, high-quality instructional materials aligned with classroom content, and consistency to build positive relationships with students. Ongoing informal assessments allow tutors to better tailor instruction to individual needs.
    • The benefits of tutoring are clearest in reading for early grades (K-2) and in math for older students.
    • Prioritization may be need-driven (e.g., targeting students below particular thresholds), curriculum-driven (e.g., for critical milestones such as 1st-grade literacy), or universal (to reduce stigma).
  • How Schools Can Help Children Recover from COVID School Closures: A Letter from Education Researchers. (2020 Aug)
    • Provide substantial additional resources to prevent looming school budget cuts.  Implement universal internet and computer access. Target resources to those most in need. Provide the most personalized and engaging instruction possible under the circumstances, even when it is necessary to be online.  Address the learning losses created by the crisis by expanding instructional time in ways that challenge, support, and engage students. Offer tailored, integrated support to each child in order to address social-emotional, physical health, and family well-being. Make decisions about teachers that support pedagogical quality and equity.
  • Reducing district budgets responsibly. (ERR; 2020 Jul)
    • School resources are particularly important for supporting lower-income students and addressing between-school inequities. Examine tradeoffs if reducing extracurricular activities, support services, or after-school programs, which may affect student engagement, academic performance, and access to peer and adult support. 
    • Since layoffs have negative consequences for students, consider delaying pay raises or furloughing non-working staff to reduce layoffs. Avoid “last-in-first-out” layoffs, which disproportionately affect schools with underserved students, focusing instead on effectiveness. 
    • Be strategic about what to adopt (e.g., by diversifying and strengthening the workforce) and what to abandon (e.g., by dropping redundant or ineffective programs).
  • What Does Research Say About Staggered School Calendars? (ANS; 2020 May)
    • Past research has shown that compared to traditional calendars, staggered (“multi-track”) calendars may have small negative effects on student learning and on parents’ and teachers’ ability to work.
  • Single‐track year‐round education for improving academic achievement in U.S. K‐12 schools: Results of a meta‐analysis. (CAMP; 2019 Sep)
    • Year-round education modestly improves math and reading achievement by amounts similar to summer learning loss. Gains may be greater for middle-school students in math.
  • Small class sizes for improving student achievement in primary and secondary schools: a systematic review. (CAMP; 2018 Oct)
    • Small class size has at best a small effect on reading achievement, with potentially a negative effect on mathematics.
  • Later school start times for supporting the education, health, and well‐being of high school students: a systematic review. (CAMP; 2017 Dec)
    • Later school start times may produce benefits for students, but more evidence is needed.
  • The Effectiveness of Volunteer Tutoring Programs: A Systematic Review. (CAMP; 2006 Jun)
    • Tutoring “can positively influence important reading and language sub-skills for young students” (~1/3 SD). “Highly structured programs had a significant advantage over programs with low structure on the global reading outcome.”
  • Impacts of After‐School Programs on Student Outcomes. (CAMP; 2006 May)