Michael Jordan: The effects of being out of the game for two years

After his father died in 1993, Michael Jordan retired from basketball. He was away from the game for nearly two years. When he came back, his performance wasn’t what it used to be. Apparently he just needed some time to get back to where he was, and some argue he came back even stronger. The next three years were another three-peat for the Chicago Bulls.

Our students were away from ‘the game’ (in-person school) for effectively the same amount of time that Jordan was away from basketball. There is no doubt ground would be lost. The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) is the latest organization to publish sobering data points on the impact the pandemic had on student’s academic progress.

The data also clearly shows the unproportional impact for students that were already underperforming their peers – they were never Jordan from the start. Students with learning challenges generally fall into this bucket and as such, were more significantly impacted by the loss of learning during the pandemic.


  • Fourth graders overall experienced a decrease in reading scores from 2019 to 2022. Those students performing in the top 10% of their class did not have a significant difference in their reading scores. However the score declines are more significant moving down the percentiles with the lowest performing students (lower 25% and lower 10%) scores decreasing 5 and 6 points, respectively.
  • Reading scores were also lower in 2022 for eighth-graders. The magnitude of score declines was fairly consistent across higher performing students (top 10% and 25%) decreasing 2 points and lower performing (lower 25% and 10%) students scores decreasing 3-4 points.
    NAEP Reading: Reading Highlights 2022 (nationsreportcard.gov)


  • Fourth-grade mathematics scores declined across all student segments for the first time since the initial mathematics assessment in 1990. Lower performing students (lower 25% and 10%) scores decreased by 6-7 points, while higher performing students (top 10 and 25%) scores decreased by 2-3 points.
    NAEP Mathematics: Mathematics Highlights 2022 (nationsreportcard.gov)

While not measured by the NAEP, we have also witnessed a significant gap in both writing skills and executive functioning skills since before the pandemic. These ‘softer’ skills are harder to measure, but the impact is just as severe, if not more.

The positive news is that lost skills can be regained and confidence can be rebuilt. The length of time to regain lost ground varies by student. A New York Times article estimates it could take students four years to bridge that gap without intervention. However, all students can regain lost ground, just like Jordan did.

If you have concerns about your student or child, we can conduct an informal assessment to gauge where the student falls relative to their peers.

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