Editorial: Tests reveal impact of lockdown on US students

The Wall Street Journal

Pandemic shutdowns have been a political mistake for ages and the economic, social and health consequences are still being felt. But the worst catastrophe has been inflicted on American children, as the recent release of the latest national assessment of progress in education shows.

The 2022 NAEP test, often called the national report card, revealed a record drop in learning in the United States since the last test in 2019. The tests measured the math and reading skills of fourth and eighth graders, as well as the damage caused by the closure of schools. and online-only education is harsh and depressing.

American schools were not doing very well before the pandemic, but the lack of learning in school made them worse. Eighth graders have dropped eight points in math since 2019, falling to an average of 274 out of a possible 500. Fourth-graders dropped five points, to an average of 236 in 2022. Not a single state or major school district showed better performance in math.

The news is not much better in reading, with the average score of fourth and eighth graders falling by three points. Nationally, only 33% of fourth graders and 31% of eighth graders read at proficiency level or above.

It is difficult to underestimate the human damage represented by these arid statistics. The learning loss is considerable and will take years to recover, if ever. Children who fall behind in reading have difficulty learning other subjects. The numbers also mean that millions of young Americans don’t even know the basics of writing and arithmetic.

The NAEP breaks down scores by states and school districts, though it’s difficult to compare scores by degree of lockdown. Each state has lost ground to some degree, and different state school districts often had different lockdown policies.

NAEP results support school choice. Charter school performance was uneven, but in at least 11 states, charter fourth-graders outperformed their non-charter counterparts in math in 2022, including Alaska (+16 points), Nevada (+12 points) and in North Carolina (+21 points). ). The NAEP says reporting standards were not met for a charter comparison in 22 states.

Catholic schools have tended to stay open during the pandemic and, on average, their fourth and eighth graders have performed better in reading and math than public school students. Department of Defense schools performed even better. Students deserve an escape from schools that cannot prepare them for life and work.

These learning losses did not need to be as severe as they are because school closures did not have to continue as we learned more about the relatively low risk of COVID for children. Sweden kept its schools open and avoided the catastrophic learning loss of the United States

School closures were a political decision, usually influenced by teachers’ unions. The political consequences should now be a backlash against the politicians who let unions close schools for so long.

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