CCP Virus, coronavirus, COVID 19, education, Im-Politic, math, NAEP, National Assessment of Educational Progress, National Education Association, reading, remote learning, school closings, school reopenings, schools, teachers unions, Wuhan virus
Although a strong nation-wide consensus has now emerged that CCP Virus-related school closings exerted a devastating and perhaps irreversible effect on the education of America’s children, and even that most of the country’s schools stayed partly or fully shut way too long, one group apparently begs to differ: America’s teachers, or at least one of their major unions.
And their views of course matter greatly because of the major influence they wield over Democratic Party politicians.
But data contained in the just-released latest edition of the U.S. Department of Education’s “nation’s report card” on pupils’ proficiency in key subjects clash loudly with the claim by the National Education Association that “no clear conclusions can be drawn between states and cities that reopened schools sooner than others.”
I haven’t checked all the scores for the thousands of U.S. school districts. What I have done is look into the state-by-state statistics. And they contain strong evidence that overall, those states that reopened schools earlier and more completely saw considerably better learning results than those taking a more cautious approach.
Specifically, I took a list of the ten earliest reopeners and ten latest reopeners as compiled by this “Business Intelligence Platform for School and Community Life,” and then examined the scores they received from that national report card – officially known as the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). I focused on the four measures that received the most attention in the press release announcing the NAEP results – fourth grade reading and math scores in 2019 (just before the pandemic’s arrival) and 2022, and their counterparts for eighth grade reading and math.
And for the best gauges of the impact of school closings, I used the NAEP’s numbers on how each state’s scores in those four subjects compared with the national averages for those two years. That is, I examined whether between 2019 and 2022, the math and reading scores registered by the state’s fourth and eighth graders improved or worsened versus the national averages (which themselves fell).
This method says nothing about which states’ scores were best or worst in absolute terms for either year – because that metric can’t reveal anything about the impact of school closing and reopening policies. In fact, several states that remained leaders in all four student categories, with results above the national averages for both years, moved closer to those (lower) national averages between 2019 and 2022. To me, that’s a clear sign that during a period of severe CCP Virus-related challenges, their performance deteriorated. And several states that remained serious laggards also closed the gaps with the national averages, which justifies in my view concluding that their educational performance improved during this period.
And here’s what I found.
Of the ten states that reopened earliest and most completely, three saw improved student scores compared with the national average on all four fronts: Florida, Texas, and Louisiana. Interestingly, in the ten-state group whose approach was extremely cautious, three states achieved such success as well: California, Hawaii, and Illinois.
But five of the earliest reopening states recorded relative improvement in three of the four categories: Wyoming, Arkansas, South Dakota. Utah, and Montana. Only one of the latest reopening states could make this claim: Washington.
Similarly, among the earliest reopening states, two achieved improvement versus the national average in two student categories: Nebraska and North Dakota. Among the latest reopening states, only one compiled this record: Nevada.
But here’s where the results get especially revealing. Nebraska and North Dakota were the worst performing of the earliest reopening states. But five (fully half) of the latest reopening states performed worse than them. They were Maryland and New Jersey, where three of the four student groups’ performances slumped compared with the national averages; and Oregon, New Mexico, and Massachusetts, in which relative decline took place in all four student groups.
As I’ve noted previously, many states are big, diverse places, and especially for those whose student populations are heavily dominated by one or two big cities, district-by-district analyses will be needed.
One such academic effort reported such results recently, and seems to have reached mixed conclusions. On the one hand, the researchers at a Harvard University-Stanford University collaboration called the “Education Recovery Scorecard” observe that “Within states, achievement losses were larger in districts that spent more time in remote instruction during 2020-21.” On the other, they state that “school closures do not appear to be the primary factor driving achievement losses.”
But more such work clearly needs to be done, since the Harvard-Stanford team had only collected results from 29 states.
In the meantime, though, the National Education Association looks off-base in its attempt to absolve lengthy school closings of any blame for the academic losses suffered by the nation’s school children. So just as war-fighting strategy may be too important to be left to the generals, school closing strategy during pandemics may be too important to be left to the teachers’ unions.