American Institutes for Research to Lead Federal Research Network on Pandemic Learning Loss and Recovery

Arlington, Va. – The American Institutes for Research (AIR) is leading a federally funded network that will conduct and share research that addresses learning setbacks resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. AIR has been awarded a three-year, $3 million grant from the Institute of Education Sciences (IES), the research, evaluation and statistics arm of the U.S. Department of Education, to lead the PreK–12 Research on Education Strategies to Advance Recovery and Turnaround (RESTART) Network.

The RESTART Network will support research to address learning losses many students encountered during the COVID-19 pandemic; identify, explore and evaluate state and local programs and policies designed to accelerate learning and recovery; and provide evidence to state and local agencies to improve learner engagement and achievement through recovery activities. AIR Managing Researcher Susan Bowles Therriault will serve as the network’s director. As the network lead, AIR will coordinate activities between research teams and provide national leadership on learning acceleration and recovery related to the pandemic. This will include:

  • Revealing emerging issues and priorities in the pandemic learning recovery landscape by assessing state and local education agencies’ needs and sharing them with the research community;
  • Identifying, sharing and amplifying evidence-based strategies that respond to the needs of the field and providing guidance, tools and connections that will help schools and districts understand and use these strategies; and
  • Building a coherent and coordinated research community focused on pandemic recovery research that fosters collaboration through training, convenings and other connections.

“It’s clear that the pandemic-related school closures disrupted teaching and learning in many ways and had a profound effect on student outcomes, deepening the inequities that already existed in the U.S. education system,” said Jessica Heppen, AIR President and an expert on education research, policy and practice. “Helping students recover what was the lost during the pandemic will take evidence-based solutions and will require researchers to collaborate with practitioners and with each other to study what works and share that knowledge with the field. The RESTART Network will create an infrastructure that supports rigorous research, authentic collaboration, and broad dissemination of high-quality evidence.”

The RESTART Network includes four researcher-practitioner teams:

  • Researchers from the Public Policy Institute of California and the California Department of Education will examine how Expanded Learning Opportunity (ELO) grants were implemented and used, and the association between ELO recovery activities and equitable student outcomes;
  • The University of Chicago and Chicago Public Schools will collaborate on a study of Skyline+PL, a post-pandemic K-2 comprehensive literacy curriculum system and gather information on improvements to the quality of instruction, student engagement, and achievement outcomes;
  • An AIR research team led by AIR Managing Researcher Kimberly T. Kendziora will work with the Illinois State Board of Education to study the effects of the Learning Renewal-Social Emotional Learning Programs used in Illinois to support recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic; and
  • The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction will assess the long-term impacts of the North Carolina School Extension Programs on post-pandemic student re-engagement and learning recovery.  

AIR is also leading two other IES-funded projects as part of the another IES-funded research network: the Leveraging Evidence to Accelerate Recovery Nationwide (LEARN) network. An AIR team that includes Lauren Artzi, senior researcher and Douglas Fuchs, institute fellow, will modify and prepare to scale the Peer-Assisted Learning Strategies Ready program, an evidence-based literacy intervention for students in grades 4 and 5. Toni Smith, managing researcher, Lynn Fuchs, institute fellow, and a team of AIR staff will adapt and prepare to scale the Classwide Fraction Intervention, with peer-assisted learning strategies to accelerate learning in mathematics.

About AIR
Established in 1946, the American Institutes for Research (AIR) is a nonpartisan, not-for-profit organization that conducts behavioral and social science research and delivers technical assistance both domestically and internationally in the areas of education, health and the workforce. AIR’s work is driven by its mission to generate and use rigorous evidence that contributes to a better, more equitable world. With headquarters in Arlington, Virginia, AIR has offices across the U.S. and abroad. For more information, visit