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National Survey Shows ‘Devastating’ Pandemic-Era Learning Loss in K-8 across U.S.

National Survey Shows ‘Devastating’ Pandemic-Era Learning Loss in K-8 across U.S.

Researchers fear parents think their children are doing much better educationally than the numbers reveal.

A group of researchers from some of the country’s most prestigious institutions reviewed test scores and other data related to educational performance in K-8 across the US.

Their conclusion: There has been a ‘devastating’ level of pandemic-era learning loss throughout the nation.

The “educational harm” caused by the coronavirus pandemic has been “devastating,” according to a recent survey of 26 million K-8 students by researchers at Stanford, Johns Hopkins, Dartmouth and Harvard. The researchers also found that the pandemic “exacerbated economic and racial educational inequality,” as lead authors Tom Kane of Harvard and Sean Reardon of Stanford wrote in a New York Times essay accompanying the release of their findings last week.

Standardized test results have similarly shown that American students are losing ground in math, reading, history and social studies. But the new findings, which are part of the Educational Recovery Scorecard, add important — and troubling — context while also calling for urgent action.
The top line

In a survey of 7,800 communities in 40 states and Washington, D.C., Kane, Reardon and their colleagues found that between 2019 and 2022, the average “U.S. public school student in grades 3-8 lost the equivalent of a half year of learning in math and a quarter of a year in reading.”

The numbers are staggering:

  • “Math, reading and history scores from the past three years show that students learned far less during the pandemic than was typical in previous years. By the spring of 2022, according to our calculations, the average student was half a year behind in math and a third of a year behind in reading.”
  • “Our detailed geographic data reveals what national tests do not: The pandemic exacerbated economic and racial educational inequality.”
  • “The pandemic left students in low-income and predominantly minority communities even further behind their peers in richer, whiter districts than they were.”
  • “In the hardest-hit communities — where students fell behind by more than one and a half years in math … schools would have had to teach 150% of a typical year’s worth of material for three years in a row just to catch up.”

Kane and Reardon sounded the alarm in a recent opinion piece in The New York Times. The researchers fear parents think their children are doing much better educationally than the numbers reveal.

They urge long-term planning to undo the damage the pandemic lockdowns caused among the nation’s schoolchildren.

School boards and state legislatures should start planning now for longer-term policy changes. One possibility would be to offer an optional fifth year of high school for students to fill holes in academic skills, get help with applying to college or to explore alternative career pathways. Students could split their time among high schools, community colleges and employers. Another option would be to make ninth grade a triage year during which students would receive intensive help in key academic subjects.

As enticing as it might be to get back to normal, doing so will just leave in place the devastating increase in inequality caused by the pandemic. In many communities, students lost months of learning time. Justice demands that we replace it. We must find creative ways to add new learning opportunities in the summer, after school, on weekends or during a 13th year of school.

If we fail to replace what our children lost, we — not the coronavirus — will be responsible for the most inequitable and longest-lasting legacy of the pandemic. But if we succeed, that broader and more responsive system of learning can be our gift to America’s schoolchildren.

The authors’ solutions require the pandemic-lockdown-policy-makers to take complete ownership of the epic disaster it turned out to be. I suspect that this will not happen.

The policy-makers will likely continue to focus on woke nonsense and blame the parents for the ensuing academic failures. This information will be swept under the rug, hoping everyone will forget.

However, it is gratifying to see someone taking a hard, analytical look at the consequences of the pandemic lockdowns on the children.


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We have an entire Department of Education, filled with the brightest minds with the highest of degrees, professionals that the world should look up to for guidance, and they have proven to be completely incompetent at providing that guidance for the education(*) of our children in math and science during normal times, and horrid during a crisis.

(*) They are pretty good at giving guidance on other subjects such as gender identity and why success in school is a sign of white supremacy and an indication of the patriarchy’s role in destroying everything, but aside from that….

Lucifer Morningstar | May 16, 2023 at 10:27 am

People should not fool themselves. That’s what the democrats wanted all along. To have the next generation of people ignorant & totally dependent on the government for all aspects of their lives. And they succeeded beyond their wildest dreams with The Pandemic™ and The Lockdown™.

The Republic is dead. The United States is dead. It’s only running on bureaucratic inertia at this point. But the fall will come. Guaranteed.

I have thirteen grandchildren. All are homeschooled. The oldest is starting electrical engineering classes in college. He saved up his tuition funds and has what he needs in cash.
I thought my children were misinformed when all three decided to homeschool their children. I think they showed wisdom in reading the times. They are not alone.

    Morning Sunshine in reply to rungrandpa. | May 16, 2023 at 10:59 am

    thank you for seeing the benefit after some time. I know many grandparents who, like you, disagreed with a desire to homeschool, and after many years of proven benefits, they STILL are upset at their kids for it.

Morning Sunshine | May 16, 2023 at 10:55 am

I believe the problem is more than covid. That was bad and terrible indeed. But worse is the current state of affairs in our schools.

Our teachers, administrators, school boards, etc all the way up to the white house are more concerned with preferred pronouns than proper grammatical use of the same. They are more concerned with feelings than logic, more concerned with the “right” books than with being able to read the books. They are more concerned with skin color than they are with math.

Covid may have started the problem, but our schools are still not teaching the skills needed for academics.

    Ironclaw in reply to Morning Sunshine. | May 16, 2023 at 2:21 pm

    Covid simply helped to illustrate the problems that were already legion.

    Dimsdale in reply to Morning Sunshine. | May 16, 2023 at 6:12 pm

    I completely agree. High school is more about babysitting than rigor. All the students want to do is play on their phones. The schools have stopped using textbooks, and the administration just pushed students through without any consideration of their actual learning. You can bet that they are quite quick to implement pronoun mangling instead of learning English.

    This is the lost generation. Students forgot how to study, as online learning only meant that your class was reduced to a tiny window on their computers while the played Fortnite or Mariokart.

    The children can’t write, refuse to read, and math is a lost art. They can’t even use an analog clock! Photomath does their math problems for them, and the heavily promoted ChatGPT will write all their paper for them.

    Spare the rod, spoil the child? Now it’s spare the teaching, maleducate the child.

      Dathurtz in reply to Dimsdale. | May 16, 2023 at 7:43 pm

      The state departments of education actively (and sometimes financially) discourage schools from using textbooks.

Lots of new low-information voters is good news for the future of the Dem party.

The main + from Covid was the peek behind the curtain at what was going on classrooms. The ancillary + are the totally out of proportion actions of the ED establishment to Parents and community members who wanted answers. The previously somewhat hidden attitude that students belonged to ED establishment not Parents came out in plain view.

The reckoning is still playing out one school district at a time. The folks in some communities are still in the denial stage but the daily evidence of malfeasance by ED establishment will eventually bring some around to our side of this debate.

“The pandemic left students in low-income and predominantly minority communities even further behind their peers in richer, whiter districts than they were.”

“pandemic exacerbated economic and racial educational inequality”

Baloney. What the test scores show is that some racial and economic groupings gave enough of a damn to take responsibility and try to keep their kids engaged with education instead of shrugging “not my job man” and letting them run wild for two years.

    Dathurtz in reply to Gosport. | May 16, 2023 at 2:47 pm

    This is exactly what happened. The kids with parents that made their kids do the work the teachers gave are still right where they should be educationally and doing exactly what they have always done. Our response to covid (not covid itself) was absolutely devastating to a huge number of students who don’t have that type of parent. The difference in student quality pre- and post- covid is startling.

Randi: What Me Worry?

No where have I seen any publicity to any remediation efforts. Have there been any? One would think they would be something school systems would want publicized.

nordic prince | May 16, 2023 at 12:38 pm

Between the deliberate dumbing down and the sowing of gender confusion, the destruction of the next generation continues apace.

2smartforlibs | May 16, 2023 at 12:38 pm

The uneducated are always easier to lead. History is replete with examples.

The Bride’s neices and nephew were, and in the case of the nephew still are, homeschooled. It shows. When these kids were junior high school aged, they could (and did) carry their side of a conversation with an adult. It was a tough row to hoe for the parents but it has paid off.

There haven’t been serious remediation efforts, and there won’t be. Schools aren’t run for the benefit of the students any more than meat packing plants are run for the benefit of the cattle. There’ll be a new set of K-8 students along shortly.

Besides, remediation would require that the students take equal responsibility for taking advantage of the remediation opportunities. And you just gave a two year master class in how much the current students matter. Don’t be surprised if they learned THAT, at least.

E Howard Hunt | May 16, 2023 at 4:56 pm

They can always become dope addicts and go on SSI.

And never ever forget that these are declines from already dumbed-down “standards”