COVID Accelerates the National Dumbing Down

by James A. Bacon

Drawing upon testing of 5.3 million students in all 50 states this fall, the Renaissance testing service found that students in some grades had fallen 7 weeks behind expectations for reading and as many as 12 weeks behind for math. 

The results reflect the disruptions to learning this spring caused by COVID-driven school closings followed by the long summer vacation. Results were not uniform. For some grades, reading scores performed close to expectations. But, with the exception of Asians who saw no decline, the findings for math among racial/ethnic groups were uniformly dismal. Whites lost significant ground, and blacks and Hispanics fared slightly worse. If there is a silver living, according to the Renaissance study, “How Kids Are Performing,” it’s that the accentuation of the black/white gap was relatively small.

Renaissance did not provide state-specific data, and the authors warned that patterns might vary state to state. But the study issued this warning: “Schools may need to dedicate additional time for large numbers of students to receive support in mathematics.”

Bacon’s bottom line: Unless the Old Dominion is a spectacular exception to the national trend, Virginia students fell behind in math. Although the Renaissance study did not say so explicitly, if students fell 12 weeks behind in math in the half year before the new school term, they are likely to slide even farther behind this year due to (1) insufficient grounding in foundational math concepts, and (2) continued disruptions to learning from COVID-related shutdowns this fall. In other words, students won’t catch up. They will fall even farther behind in math by the end of the year. This is an educational catastrophe of the first order.

If students have fallen 12 weeks behind in math, do we as a society have an obligation to extend the school year in order to help them catch up? Undoubtedly, there would be significant additional expense. At the same time, the expense is incalculable of an entire generation of school children suffering such an erosion in math skills — a loss in proficiency that could haunt them for the rest of their school years. I don’t know how much flexibility the Northam administration has in reallocating federal COVID aid dollars, but it strikes me that giving students more time to catch up and stay on track ought to be the priority.

(Hat tip: John Butcher)

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13 responses to “COVID Accelerates the National Dumbing Down

  1. That’ll make my essay test scores drop in the coming fall semesters!

    Why won’t the schools do what they did when I was a student – keep the standards high and have them repeat a year if they don’t pass?

    Oh that’s right we can’t hurt any feelings.

  2. I agree.. Everyone repeats a grade unless they test out of it.

    No blame, it’s the pandemic fault.

    As someone who was a military brat – several times in my youth, Dad got his “orders” and off we went to the next duty station and in those days, the military did not time the moves with school so I’d end up in another school that more often than not did not pick up where I left off.

    There was no crying or whining about it – it was the way it was and we dealt with it.

    And no, it’s not just the kids now days , parents are even worse sometimes… the why-me-God caterwalling is incessant.

    Suck it up and get on with life.

    • James Wyatt Whitehead V

      I like your idea Mr. Larry. Another option is year round schooling. Bare minimum on holidays. Mandatory Summer School.

      • I like year-around schools also James.

        When I talk to teachers, they tell me that for some of the kids, it becomes a question of how much they “lost” during summer vacation and how much of it they can get back before they move to the new stuff.

        And worse, in our neck of the woods, apparently Summer School is a joke,

        • James Wyatt Whitehead V

          That is shame that Spotsy has a lame summer school. I remember failing Geometry and taking it again in summer school. That teacher ran the 6 week 6 hour a day class like a boot camp. Extended time, good teacher, everyday contact on the same subject. A recipe for success. I got an A in that class and I can still remember some of it even though I rarely needed Geometry in life. I remember the bus ride was hell too. 2 hours one way from Catharpin, Virginia to Garfield High next to Potomac Mills. Everyday down crowded 234 and Davis Ford Road before all of the modern roads in Prince William.

  3. How can that be? It’s a hoax, remember?

    • Baconator with extra cheese

      I agree public schools are a hoax.
      I mean how can RVA spend thousands more per pupil than neighboring Henrico yet graduate way less???… definitely a hoax!

  4. And homeschoolers never missed a beat

  5. Baconator with extra cheese

    And will prove what we all know. Involved parents matter the most… not skin color or income, but parents who push their children to become the best adults possible.
    Unfortunately we are led to believe otherwise… that some magical teacher exists out there to replace parents if we only pay much much more…
    Teachers are important, but they will never replace parents who support and love their kids.

  6. Follow the science, follow the science…for six months every pediatric expert, every public health agency has noted that 1) this doesn’t seem to spread in any significant way among those age groups, and the day cares which have been open all along have shown that and 2) at least for the earliest grades, the cost of the virtual failed experience greatly exceeds the risk of being back in class. Sorry, Larry, but there will be a problem when one-half or two-thirds have to repeat en masse. It will not be without consequences, but it may be the only viable solution.

    And I still say keep an eye on the fanatics, because they have said — no in school classes until they see zero disease. That won’t be the case in August 21. They may be a permanent situation, controlled by vaccine but not snuffed out.

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