Math and reading scores for America's 9-year-olds fell dramatically during the first two years of the pandemic. Reading scores saw their largest decrease in 30 years, while math scores had their first decrease in the history of the testing regimen behind the study.
Regarding the findings from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), a branch of the U.S. Education Department, Jay P. Greene, Ph.D. of The Heritage Foundation recalls that when schools were closed in 2020, children spent a year or more learning from home -- a situation in which many of them had never been. COVID outbreaks among teachers and students added to the chaos.
"No one was surprised to see a dramatic drop in test scores following widespread school closures for in-person instruction during the pandemic," says Greene. "We expected that there would be learning loss, and that's exactly what we saw in the recent test scores."
He says it may actually be worse than it appears.
"There are harms from closing schools for in-person instruction that go well beyond the loss in learning as measured by test scores," Greene submits. "We also know that there are severe disruptions in behavior that are resulting from the closures. Students have gotten significantly worse in their behavior, and … there are much more serious psychological problems that are occurring among students as a result of these school closures."
He points out that the data actually show that test scores were already declining before the pandemic. But as recognizing the problem is one thing, he goes on to suggest some solutions.
"In fact, we see a decline in test scores going back as far as 2008," Greene notes. "There were a number of very counterproductive federal policies that were introduced during the Obama administration, and so one of the most important things we can do to turn around student learning is to repeal those counterproductive federal policies."
The Heritage Foundation -- whose mission is to formulate and promote public policies based on the principles of free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, and traditional American values -- proposes giving control of schools back to communities so that they are "not receiving direction from the U.S. Department of Education about how they discipline their kids or what curriculum they use."
"All of those things have been harmful for student learning," the research fellow asserts. "The other thing we need to do -- and the most important thing we think needs to be done -- is to expand school choice. We need to empower parents to control the education of their own children."
In Greene's opinion, parents know best how their children should be educated, and they know what values are necessary to be conveyed to their children to form their character in the proper way.
"Parents raise children," he states. "Not the state, [and] not the school."
So parents, Greene concludes, need school choice so that they can raise their own children.