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We Just Got the Definitive Data on How Schoolchildren Did During the Pandemic. Here’s How Bad It Was.

The pandemic set back the education of America’s children by 30 years, according to “the nation’s report card,” published Monday.

SO WHAT

The U.S. has yet to fully reckon with the extent of learning loss during the pandemic.

THE NUMBERS

The 2022 National Assessment of Educational Progress showed devastating declines in the reading and math skills of fourth and eight graders since 2019, when the pandemic led to shuttering of schools across the country for months or years.

Reading scores fell in more than half of U.S. states, and math scores saw the steepest decline ever recorded since the NAEP began in 1992.

  • The impact was worse for black and Hispanic students and those who were already struggling academically, increasing preexisting educational gaps.
  • “It is a serious wakeup call for us all,” Peggy Carr, the commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics, a branch of the Education Department, told The Associated Press. “In NAEP, when we experience a 1- or 2-point decline, we’re talking about it as a significant impact on a student’s achievement.”
  • “I want to be very clear: The results in today’s nation’s report card are appalling and unacceptable,” said Miguel Cardona, the secretary of education. “This is a moment of truth for education. How we respond to this will determine not only our recovery, but our nation’s standing in the world.”

The NAEP results, though shocking, were not a surprise: Preliminary data released in September showed a similar drop-off in learning during the pandemic.

THE RECKONING?

“The test results could be seized as political fodder — just before the midterms — to re-litigate the debate over how long schools should have stayed closed, an issue that galvanized many parents and teachers,” warned The New York Times in its coverage of the NAEP scores.

  • “The bleak results underscored how closing schools hurt students, but researchers cautioned against drawing fast conclusions about whether states where schools stayed remote for longer had significantly worse results.”

The Wall Street Journal editorial board did not hold back, though, arguing that the NAEP results proved COVID-19 emergency measures were a “catastrophe visited on America’s children.”

  • “The school closures were a political decision, typically influenced by teachers unions. The political consequences now should be a backlash against the politicians who let the unions close the schools for so long.”

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