Education during Covid: A failing grade

Posted: September 6, 2022 by chrisharper in education

By Christopher Harper

The catastrophe of closing schools during Covid became even more apparent as data provided information about the impact of those decisions.

The average scores for 9-year-olds declined the most on record in math (seven points) and in reading since 1990 (five points, according to the National Center for Educational Progress. See

The 2020 tests were administered shortly before pandemic lockdowns and school closures, so this year’s results show how students have weathered those two years.

NAEP, a congressionally mandated program overseen by the U.S. Department of Education, administered the assessments from January to March 2020 and 2022, respectively. The group tested about 7,400 9-year-old students from 410 schools in 2022, and 92% of the schools assessed this year were also tested in 2020. 

Results were even worse for lower-income and minority students. Math scores fell by 13 points for black students and eight points for Hispanics compared to five points for whites. Reading scores for low-income students fell twice as much as for others.

Simply put, school closures cost American kids a lot, and it is unlikely that the next few years will close the gap significantly.

Peggy Carr, the commissioner of the U.S. Education Department’s National Center for Education Statistics, expressed concerns about the findings in a statement announcing the results.

“There’s been much speculation about how shuttered schools and interrupted learning may have affected students’ opportunities to learn,” Carr wrote. 

“Our own data reveal the pandemic’s toll on education in other ways, including increases in students seeking mental health services, absenteeism, school violence and disruption, cyberbullying, and nationwide teacher and staff shortages.”

While the Biden administration praised its efforts to reopen schools and toss money at the problem, it’s worth noting that states that voted for Donald Trump did much better in reopening schools. 

Schools in Trump states reopened 75% of the time, while those that voted for Biden reopened 37% during the 2020-2021 academic year, according to the education nonprofit The 74. 

Also, Democrats widely condemned Trump and Republican governors like Gov. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., for aggressively pushing school reopenings in the fall of 2020. 

“Floridians deserve science-based action from Gov. Ron DeSantis,” Biden said prior to the 2020 election. “While other large states continue to take strong, urgent, and sweeping action to stop the spread of COVID-19, Florida has not.”

The recent results do not include a breakdown by state, but it will be interesting to see how much better Florida did than the national results.

American Federation of Teachers chief Randi Weingarten, who pushed shutdowns, tried to forget this ever happened with her statement on Twitter: “Thankfully after two years of disruption from a pandemic that killed more than 1 mil Americans, schools are already working on helping kids recover and thrive. This is a year to accelerate learning by rebuilding relationships, focusing on the basics.” 

She and her union had to back down from extending closures even more after parents went ballistic in many locales. See

Just for the record, I taught online classes for nearly two decades. The problem wasn’t online vs. the classroom. The problem was that most of my colleagues had no training and no understanding of how to teach online. If teachers are properly prepared to teach online, surveys show that students do slightly better online than in the classroom.

Nevertheless, as this school year begins, it’s readily apparent that things won’t return to normal any time soon. Students must make up two years of declining knowledge over the next eight years through 12th grade. That’s going to be tough!

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