Learning loss demands action
This appeared in the Los Angeles Times
It’s no surprise that educational achievement suffered after two chaotic years of school closures during the COVID-19 pandemic. But it’s still distressing to see the desolate picture of students’ academics and ever-widening gap between low- and high-performing students revealed by the latest national proficiency test scores.
Math and reading scores declined among fourth- and eighth-grade students in most states, according to results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress released Sunday. Overall, the “Nation’s Report Card,” as this periodic report is known, showed such steep declines in test scores compared with previous years that education experts warn that we’re on the verge of losing an entire generation to substantial learning loss.
The results are hardly surprising given the unprecedented disruption in schooling caused by the pandemic, but they offer concrete proof that K-12 students need more focused attention and resources in the form of tutoring or extended instruction time, depending on specific circumstances. More than just a snapshot in time of how students are faring, the results offer clues for educators, policymakers and parents of how we can better help students. The larger declines in math could mean that students need more support, perhaps one-on-one tutoring or more teacher instruction.
U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said the poor performance isn’t just the result of school closures during the pandemic but also a reflection of “decades of underinvestment in our students.”
Nearly 500,000 fourth- and eighth-grade students nationwide took the tests between January and March. The report card is helpful because it contains data for students in all 50 states and 26 urban districts.
It’s clear that a multi-pronged approach to boosting student performance will be necessary, but state and local educators and policymakers should ensure that decisions about how to allocate resources are driven by data and other evidence.
The data released this week show the urgency of remediating the learning loss exacerbated by the pandemic. Now that educators have the funds and the data to help guide them, they should use that money wisely. Our children’s future depends on it.