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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Black kids are a year farther behind in math: That matters, right?

Math scores for Black nine-year-olds dropped by 13 points compared to 2020, representing a year's worth of learning, reports the National Assessment of Educational Progress.

It wasn't the pandemic, tweets Michael Petrilli. It was the decision to keep schools closed.

Math scores for Black 9 year olds dropped by 13 points (compared to 5 points for White students). 13 points! A whole grade of learning, lost. And yet some teachers union leaders claimed that re-opening schools was "racist." We failed these kids.

Student achievement in first, second and third grade is "quite predictive of their success later in school, and their educational trajectories overall,” Susanna Loeb, who directs Brown's Annenberg Institute, told the New York Times. She fears lower-achieving students may give up on school.

Black, Hispanic and lower-income students were more likely to be enrolled in schools that continued remote learning for longer periods of time, writes Sarah Mervosh for the Times. They were achieving below grade level before the pandemic.

Yet, ever since the NAEP scores came out, I see tweets declaring that test scores don't matter because they don't measure everything or that there is no such thing as "behind" or that we should really be talking about inequality or systemic racism or family poverty.

Anya Kamenetz, who has a book out titled The Stolen Year, writes about the excuse-making in a New York Times commentary.

"Today, the few union leaders and other educators who have impugned or outright denied the existence of learning loss are coming pretty close to arguing that public schools accomplish nothing," she writes. "If being at home for a year and a half didn’t have any negative impact on children, why do we need school?"

You'd think public school defenders would be saying: Look how important school is! Most children don't learn very well if they can't go to school. School matters!

In 50Can's New Reality Round-up, Marc Porter Magee notes that "more than 90% of the nation’s Catholic schools reopened on time for in-person instruction in fall 2020." In Sweden, which never closed schools, students experienced no learning loss.

50CAN President Derrell Bradford: “For the last year, the country has been in the grip of a conversation about racism, race and their role in our schools. If you ever needed proof that the American education system ranks and treats students of color differently, the NAEP results are it. Nearly 30 years of progress for Black students has been erased by the decisions of education and elected officials to put their learning last on the list of priorities. We knew it would likely hurt Black students most to allow this disrupted learning and we did it anyways.”

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