Nationwide Tests Reveal the True Impact of Pandemic on School Children

No matter what Dr. Fauci said about the long-term effects of the pandemic on children, the national test results give a clear picture. 

The pandemic had devastating consequences on American schoolchildren, and the performance of 9-year-olds in math and reading dropping to the levels from decades ago proves it.

For the first time since the National Assessment of Educational Progress tests began tracking student achievement in the 1970s, students at the age of 9 years old lost ground in math with their scores falling by the largest margin in more than 30 years. 

The decline was found in all races and income levels.

“I was taken aback by the scope and the magnitude of the decline,” said Peggy G. Carr, commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics. This is the federal agency that gives the exam to a national sample of close to 15,000 9-year-olds. The results from this year were compared with the same tests given in early 2020, just before the pandemic in the United States. 

This decline in test scores reveals that many 9-year-olds can demonstrate a partial understanding of what they are reading, but fewer students can now tell what a character is feeling from what they read. 

In math, students now know simple arithmetic facts, but fewer can add fractions with common denominators. 

This setback could have significant ramifications for an entire generation of children.

Pandemic Will Have Significant Ramifications on This Generation of Children

Susanna Loeb is the director of the Annenberg Institute at Brown University, which focuses on education inequality. She said, “Student test scores, even starting in first, second and third grade, are really quite predictive of their success later in school, and their educational trajectories overall.” She also noted that the biggest reason that we should be concerned is the lower achievement of lower-achieving children. 

She said that being so far behind at this age level can lead to disengagement from school, and it will be less likely that students will make it to graduation, let alone college. 

The National Assessment of Educational Progress is widely respected because it is standardized across the country, and it doesn’t hold schools accountable for results. This makes it more reliable. 

Andrew Ho, a professor of education at Harvard and an expert on education testing, believes that this test speaks clearly about how much work educators have to do. He said that the national tests tell a story of a “decade of progress,” followed by a “decade of inequality” and then the “shock” of the pandemic.

He said that the pandemic erased progress, and it exacerbated inequality. Dr. Ho said, “Now, we have our work cut out for us.”

Experts believe that these results should be a “rallying cry” to focus on getting students back on track. Janice K. Jackson, who led the Chicago Public Schools until last year and is now a board member of Chiefs for Change, challenged the federal government to take the lead with some “big ideas.” She referenced the Marshall Plan, which was the American initiative to rebuild after World War II. 

“That is how dramatic it is to me,” she said. “No more of the arguments, and the back and forth and the vitriol and the finger pointing,” she said. “Everybody should be treating this like the crisis that it is.”

The government has budgeted $122 billion to help students recover from this downward spiral. This is the largest single investment in American schools in history. And approximately 20 percent of that money will be focused on academic catch-up. 

The sad truth is that many schools are having trouble hiring teachers, too. One expert said that he did not see any silver bullets for this present crisis. With students being behind and teachers not wanting to enter the classrooms, is there hope for the next generation?