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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

'There's got to be a pony in there'

Public schools face a long, tough road to recover from school closures and pandemic chaos, writes Fordham's Dale Chu. Post-pandemic learning loss is huge, recovery efforts are inadequate and education officials want the public to think everything's fine and dandy.

"Just as schools and districts have gotten into the bad habit of withholding honest feedback from students and parents — through rampant grade inflation and social promotion among other academic gimmicks —state education departments are doing a disservice to local communities when they downplay the bad news and cheerlead mediocrity," he writes.

Chu summarizes the rose-colored spin from states with poor test scores: California's scores are "promising," Oregon is "stabilizing," Connecticut students aren't quite as likely to be chronically absent, Delaware has a successful school district, Georgia finds "evidence of growth," Massachusetts "signs of recovery," Michigan boasts "gradual improvements" and stability and Washington finds "learning recovery."

"Never mind the compelling evidence to the contrary," he writes. It's like the old joke about the optimistic boy who gets a load of manure for Christmas: “There’s got to be a pony in here somewhere!

In Colorado and Indiana, state education leaders are trying to build a sense of urgency about the need to do better, writes Chu. Jacob Oliva, education secretary in Arkansas, is the most forthright. The press release admits that state test results "show little to no rebound from pre-pandemic levels," calls it a "wake-up call" and urges the state to move forward with evidence-based approaches to increase student learning.

Happy talk and spin won't help students.

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