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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Closing schools was a 'wrecking ball'

"The pandemic was a wrecking ball for U.S. public education," concludes the Center for Reinventing Public Education in The State of the American Student. "The kids are not all right," academically or emotionally.

Where schools stayed closed the longest, the effects were worse, the study finds. "Students who were poorly served before the pandemic were profoundly left behind during it, including many of those with disabilities who were cut off from essential services critical not only to learning but to daily life, as well."

As the old joke goes: Other than that, how did you like the play, Mrs. Lincoln?

Decisions were driven by politics rather than evidence, write Robin Lake and Travis Pillow, co-authors of the study. The most harmed were "the students with the greatest needs."

National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) reported less learning for nine-year-olds in math and reading; scores fell sharply between 2020 and 2022. . They predict NAEP data for older students, due in October, will be "very bad news." In Ohio and North Carolina, 10th-grade math scores "took a precipitous drop this last year."

Despite their fears of long-term harm to students affected by school closures, Lake and Pillow offer a hopeful scenario -- with "American ingenuity" and community collaboration.

Districts could use federal pandemic recovery funding to pay for community-run tutoring to help students address gaps in their learning and for programs that aid high school students in gaining a foothold in college or career training — areas where many recent graduates are struggling.
States or the federal government could create funds to ensure every member of the COVID generation graduates prepared to succeed in college or start a rewarding career.
School districts with innovative and proven approaches for the most pressing challenges, such as learning loss recovery, teacher staffing and student mental health, should be compensated to offer to train and support more districts to replicate those practices. The federal government and private foundations should organize a focused and coordinated national research program to quickly identify effective interventions, tools, and school and staffing models.

State should shift school “report cards” to focus on recovery, they write. "Every family should have access to clear, accessible data on where their child stands. If their schools cannot deliver a full recovery for their child, they should have the ability to opt out and pay for other learning options."

Test scores from nearly two million students nationwide show "more young children are struggling with early reading skills, while more older elementary and middle school students are missing foundational math skills like subtraction and multiplication," reports Kalyn Belsha on Chalkbeat. "As some other tests have found, the i-Ready showed more trouble spots in math than reading."

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