Trends in Reading Acheivement – PIRLS 2021

PIRLS 2021 International Results in Reading

Trends in Reading


Measuring trends in achievement of student populations from one assessment cycle to the next is always an extremely complicated endeavor. PIRLS 2021 is the fifth assessment of PIRLS since its inception in 2001, providing 20 years of trend data. With each new assessment cycle, PIRLS has taken the utmost care to keep the majority of the assessment the same from cycle to cycle, to evolve carefully, and to document any differences. For PIRLS 2021, however, onset of the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted school operations often through school closures (see Exhibit 3 in About PIRLS 2021), which necessitated adjustments in the data collection schedules (see Exhibit 5 in About PIRLS 2021).

Data collected across the PIRLS 2021 countries to examine the impact of COVID-19 on students’ learning and their reading achievement at the end of fourth grade is somewhat limited. The situation in each country and how the pandemic was handled was monitored and documented to the extent possible, while ensuring that the PIRLS assessment remained largely unchanged. Among these efforts, PIRLS 2021 reports from school principals are valuable and describe the extent of school closures. Exhibit 3 in About PIRLS 2021 shows how closures varied from country to country as did the responses to school closures in terms of providing out-of-school learning opportunities. Parents’ reports about the impact of the pandemic on their children’s learning also varied across countries (Exhibit 4 in About PIRLS 2021), although parents reported that two-thirds of their children were negatively impacted in their learning to some degree.