How to fix the educational wreckage of COVID-19

Jthe Biden administration
announcement
a new campaign this month to recruit 250,000 tutors for K-12 students to help address learning loss from school closures and distance learning during the COVID-19 pandemic. 19.

This is a long overdue step to help children reclaim the learning and achievement they have lost due to the lack of in-person instruction. But it is also woefully insufficient.

A recent
study
by Harvard University’s Center for Education Policy Research found that even students who spent less than a month learning remotely during the 2020-21 school year missed the equivalent of seven to 10 math learning weeks. Students in very poor schools fared even worse because their schools were more likely to stay away longer and because they often lacked the home support families were expected to provide. Indeed, lower-income schools spent about 5.5 weeks more on distance learning in the 2020-21 school year than higher-income schools and missed the equivalent of 22 weeks of learning. math in person. That’s more than half of a traditional school year (about 36 to 40 weeks).

In other words, we have a learning loss crisis, and Biden’s plan to hire more tutors just isn’t going to cut it.

If the administration really wanted to reduce learning deficits, it would expand educational choices for school-aged children. This would allow parents from all socio-economic backgrounds to access schools that are better suited to the needs of their children. Currently, in many states, only high-income families have this privilege. It would also give parents a way to opt out of the growing trend in public school districts of teaching students what to think rather than how to think.

Unfortunately, Biden is more interested in putting a band-aid on a problem he helped create. He repeatedly sided with teachers’ unions as they pushed for schools to remain closed for more than a year – beyond the point of caution or public health necessity. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention directly adopted language submitted by the American Federation of Teachers, the nation’s largest teachers’ union, to discourage the reopening of schools in early 2021. Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the CDC,
offered no
science or data to justify his agency’s advice and ignored the growing pile of evidence that virtual learning was causing irreparable harm to students across the country.

Meanwhile, private (often religious) schools and charter schools have become an oasis for American families, helping children by simply staying open. According to a
investigation
by Education Next conducted in November and December 2020, only 24% of public schools provided full in-person instruction, compared to 60% of independent and religious schools.

But in many states, these schools were only available as an option to families who could afford them. Parents without the financial resources to send their children to a private or religious school had few options, even as their public schools remained closed.

Nevertheless, a remarkable number of parents took action anyway.

And between the 2019-20 and 2021-22 school years, enrollment in district public schools declined on a net basis by nearly 1.3 million students nationwide, a decline of more than 2 .5%, depending
data tracked
by the American Enterprise Institute and Davidson College. School districts that have been following remote learning the longest have experienced an even greater loss of enrollment, with an average decline of 4.4%.

A broader national effort is needed to empower parents to select the best schooling options and the best ways to address their children’s learning loss. And even though the Biden administration has shown little interest in seriously addressing this issue, a number of lawmakers in Congress are taking action.

The educational choice for children
Law
, introduced late last month in the House and Senate, would allow millions of students to attend schools of their parents’ choice by creating a $10 billion federal tax credit to encourage charitable giving to K-12 nonprofit scholarship funds. If passed by Congress, this legislation would complement educational freedom policies in states such as Arizona and Florida and fill huge gaps in most other states that lack school choice opportunities.

This legislation would empower millions of parents by making them customers in a K-12 market. It would also force district public schools to meet the needs of their students or watch as more and more parents transfer their children to greener educational pastures.

Luke Messer is the president of the Invest in Education Foundation, which supports school choice policies to expand educational freedom, and is a former congressman from Indiana.

Comments are closed.