America's Report Card Reveals COVID Closures Fueled Stunning Plunge in Student Test Scores
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The nation's report card is in and it shows students across the country are falling behind in the classroom. A new report out today highlights declining test scores, especially in math and reading. Leading officials are scrambling to find solutions.
Virginia Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow said, "Teachers, parents, students, and taxpayers – have not been told the truth about student performance."
More than 20 years of educational gains have been wiped out across the country since 2017 which indicates the COVID lockdown isn't the only culprit. These national statistics regularly track math and reading comprehension among 4th and 8th grade in a measurement often called "the nation's report card."
"We will hold ourselves and our schools accountable," Virginia's Gov. Glenn Youngkin said. "I'm directing the Board of Education to overhaul our broken school accreditation system."
The numbers show Virginia was hit the hardest, boasting the nation's lowest reading standard along with the lowest proficiency in testing. The state ties Maryland with the largest decline in 4th-grade math since 2017 and the largest decline in 4th-grade reading.
"Our black and Hispanic students across subject and grade levels are far behind their peers," Balow said.
While the head of the organization releasing the numbers called them the "clearest picture yet" of the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic on learning, Gov. Youngkin also blames previous administrations due to declining numbers well before the pandemic.
Heritage Foundation Education Fellow Jonathan Butcher said, "Seeing a dramatic decrease of test scores this size, it's actually very unusual."
Butcher says special interest groups and school unions that fought to close schools should also clearly bear responsibility.
"Those districts that showed the biggest drops – places like Chicago and places like Philadelphia, where the unions actively kept teachers out of the classroom – it shows poorly on their own special interest groups that they put their own interests ahead of students," Butcher said.
States like Virginia will depend on federal dollars to help fix the broken system. Roughly $150 billion in COVID relief money remains unspent. Now schools are scrambling to figure out how to turn those dollars into better test scores.
"They could spend it on direct support to families for access in tutoring. They could spend it on extending the school year for students who need it," Youngkin said.
Regardless of who's to blame for America's declining classrooms, educators say it's time for everyone to roll up their sleeves and get to work.
Regent University's Education Dean, Dr. Kurt Kreassig, said, "We need to come together as a country around public education. We are inextricably linked to the success of public education in this country. We're only as good as the poorest performing school."
While the data doesn't show a clear connection between back-to-school policies and academic performance, Butcher points out private and Catholic schools were able to maintain stable test scores compared to schools that shut their doors during COVID.
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