Coronavirus / Politics

School Lockdowns Failed Our Kids

Late 2022, we got confirmation: Continued school lockdowns, pushed by unions and politicians, killed two decades of educational progress, placing kids on a two year skid in math and reading. Parallel studies show loss of those skills catapults kids toward crime. We failed, now need to act.

Late 2022, we got the “Nation’s Report Card” in education, produced by the “National Assessment of Educational Progress” (NAEP). “Two decades of growth for American students in reading and math were wiped away by just two years of pandemic-disrupted learning.”

Reading this study is sobering, because the impact is universal, more dramatic for those who need face-to-face learning. Losses are unprecedented, significant, and hard to make up – yet must be made up, or adverse downstream effects will be serious, widespread, impossible to reverse.

“The report shows average long-term math performance falling for the first time ever; in reading, scores saw the biggest drop in 30 years.” Moreover, “declines were much larger for students at lower performance levels, widening already-huge learning disparities between the country’s high- and low-achievers.”

Digging into these “unprecedented learning reversals,” the data broad, deep, and revealing – profound “learning losses inflicted by prolonged school closures and student dislocation.”

Even the Commissioner for the National Center for Education Statistics conceded school lockdowns – educator preoccupation with COVID fear – were devastating. They “shocked American education and stunned the academic growth” of students through at least age 13.

How could we have gotten it so wrong, not understood the dramatic impact – especially on those who need personal teaching to learn essential skills? And how bad is the crisis?

The answer is politics and fear triumphed over parents, kids, and common sense. An initially unclear public health crisis became a clarion call for panicked federal and state mandates, teacher union hysteria, and media preoccupation – ending the traditional way of addressing health issues, with balance, perspective, and attention to what matters, kids.

What the study also shows, unfortunately, is that kids who need in-person school most – who are reached or lost, absent parental education stumbling into crime without essential skills – were hardest hit. Thus, “math achievement for white 9-year-olds dropped by five points, but for their Hispanic and African American counterparts, the damage was even greater (eight points and 13 points, respectively).”

Thus, when the safety net of educated parents, siblings, tutors, or attention to direct learning at home was missing, the impact was more severe. “As a result, the math achievement gap between whites and African Americans increased by a statistically significant amount.”

“In reading, scores for African Americans, Hispanics, and whites were all six points lower, leaving relative gaps unchanged,” while “scores for Asian students only fell by one point.” Again, classroom deficits matter.

More pointedly, while governors, school districts, and teachers unions hyped or responded to hype around COVID, this was not the only adult failure. We continue to fail today.

Even facing dramatic downturns in this “generation’s” learning, the significance of learning failure is being missed. States, school districts, and even some families are giving a collective shrug, not willing to “embrace … learning interventions,” such as “dramatically lengthening the school year to implementing widespread one-to-one tutoring” in proportion to “the scale of learning loss.”

Not needed is more federal money, more federal mandates, more excuses, or further finger pointing. Needed is an honest look in the mirror – or at parallel data, including what happens when a child is failed in these early years.

The answer is sobering – because we have tens of millions who have been systematically failed. What happens is that those who schools fail end up passing that failure forward, or back to the society later.

Often they turn to crime, but invariably underperform, are unable to produce what a timely education would have allowed, thus become a social, economic, and public safety burden.

Societal impact is not one-off, not temporary, but continuing. Countless studies show a clear, undeniable, inverse relationship between education and crime – the more education a child gets, the less chance he or she turns to crime, and the less education, the greater the chance.

As one summary analysis reported: There is a “clear correlation between crime and education,” with everything from FBI statistics to state level incarceration data confirming that crime and prison time are much more likely for those who lack early education. Census data also prove the same.

Net-net these two streams of data – one confirming school lockdowns set math and reading scores back two decades, the other tying reduced math and reading achievement to higher crime – are a bright, flashing red warning sign.

Two policy actions are critical from this data, states and federal leaders. First, we need to think forward, reverse engineer the society we want – intervene with the kids we failed, so we do not get decades of dysfunction. Second, we need to take note: School lockdowns are devastating.

Robert Charles is a former Assistant Secretary of State under Colin Powell, former Reagan and Bush 41 White House staffer, attorney, and naval intelligence officer (USNR). He wrote “Narcotics and Terrorism” (2003), “Eagles and Evergreens” (2018), and is National Spokesman for AMAC.

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1 month ago

We always like to blame someone else for our failures. The failure here is the parents who have for years used public education as free day care. Today’s parents have no idea what goes on at school, they don’t care what goes on at school. With both parents working to make ends meet doesn’t leave a lot of time for kids. Oh, we make a big deal about how loving and generous absent fathers are and how single moms get along in their community living with their mothers. Perhaps your average drug dealer and petty criminal can be a good parent but likely not. Our kids run wild because the parents let them. Parents today want to be friends; they don’t want to be parents. And the results are what they are – our kids are messed up and covid didn’t help nor does a dysfunctional family.

Kyle Buy you some guns,and learn how to shoot
2 months ago

Dumbed down ,but healthy. Kyle L.

Patriot Will
2 months ago

Yes, Mr. Charles, our youth have been horribly neglected both socially and educationally. I wish I could be optimistic for their future. However, there are still plenty of people in power who are very happy to continue the failed policies of the last 3 years, There are still plenty of school administrators and teachers who want everything done for the safety of the teachers. Schools are still being shut down and students are still being kept home at the slightest hint of some Covid-19 outbreak. The children and young people are still being neglected to overly protect older teachers who have a greater chance of getting seriously sick. When is the insanity going to officially end? Too many adults, especially woke progressives, are still all too quick to sacrifice the future of our youth and of our country to keep uninformed dysfunctional educators healthy and safe.

anna hubert
2 months ago

Schools failed the kids long ago

Stephen Russell
2 months ago

Lockdowns cost:
NOT needed
For Power & Control
& then to revive Economy with Biden killing our energy base

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