This time anyway…if I had known they cared, I would have done it years ago!
I jest. Still, it was a shock to see the article “Not Good for Learning: New research is showing the high costs of long school closures in some communities” in yesterday’s New York Times, and even a greater shock to see the author: David Leonhardt, who was one of the most indefensibly partisan of the Times op-ed stable when he was an editorial columnist. (Check his EA dossier, here.)
Yet Leonhardt reveals,
Three times a year, millions of K-12 students in the U.S. take a test known as the MAP that measures their skills in math and reading. A team of researchers at Harvard’s Center for Education Policy Research have used the MAP’s results to study learning during a two-year period starting in the fall of 2019, before the pandemic began…
On average, students who attended in-person school for nearly all of 2020-21 lost about 20 percent worth of a typical school year’s math learning during the study’s two-year window.
Some of those losses stemmed from the time the students had spent learning remotely during the spring of 2020, when school buildings were almost universally closed. And some of the losses stemmed from the difficulties of in-person schooling during the pandemic, as families coped with disruption and illness.
But students who stayed home for most of 2020-21 fared much worse. On average, they lost the equivalent of about 50 percent of a typical school year’s math learning during the study’s two-year window.
“It’s pretty clear that remote school was not good for learning,” said Emily Oster, a Brown University economist and the co-author of another such study…
One of the most alarming findings is that school closures widened both economic and racial inequality in learning….Low-income students, as well as Black and Latino students, fell further behind over the past two years, relative to students who are high-income, white or Asian. “This will probably be the largest increase in educational inequity in a generation,” Thomas Kane, an author of the Harvard study, told me.
All to derail President Trump’s re-election chances. (Well, maybe not all…) I hope it was worth it. Leonhardt goes on, and doesn’t pull his punches…
[S]chools with large numbers of poor students were more likely to go remote. Why? Many of these schools are in major cities, which tend to be run by Democratic officials, and Republicans were generally quicker to reopen schools. High-poverty schools are also more likely to have unionized teachers, and some unions lobbied for remote schooling…school closures were what economists call a regressive policy, widening inequality by doing the most harm to groups that were already vulnerable.
Congress has tried to address the learning loss by allocating about $190 billion for schools in pandemic rescue bills. That amounts to more than $3,500 for the average K-12 student in public school.
Were many of these problems avoidable? The evidence suggests that they were. Extended school closures appear to have done much more harm than good, and many school administrators probably could have recognized as much by the fall of 2020…Hundreds of other districts, especially in liberal communities, instead kept schools closed for a year or more. Officials said they were doing so to protect children and especially the most vulnerable children. The effect, however, was often the opposite.
Oh, Leonhardt does try to include elements that mitigate the blame, but the message is still clear: Democrats and progressives led the way in closing the schools and he doesn’t even hit all of the direct consequences. Closing the schools took many parents out of the workforce, and contributed greatly to the economic collapse. He also doesn’t adequately assign blame to the news media, like, say, his own paper, for carrying on the Democratic Party’s fear-mongering to ensure that Republican resistance to the school-closing policy was futile. He might have also noted that the $190 billion that was largely pork for the Democratic Party’s education industry constituency contributed to the spending spree that has triggered inflation and deepened the national debt.
Many suspected at the time that all of this was a disaster in the making with a substantial component of political sabotage involved, but with the resistance/Democratic Party/mainstream media (that’s the Axis of Unethical Conduct in Ethics Alarms parlance) pointing to the inflated death statistics and, like Joe Biden, saying that they were all Trump’s fault (“blood on his hands!”) there was no way, realistically, for the President to oppose the “Think of the children!” hysteria.
We’ve known the panic-driven lockdown wrecked the economy, which fulfilled the Left’s greatest wish. It’s admirable that the Times is now willing to report that the collateral damage included a generation’s education, with the most vulnerable being the hardest hit.