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Shutting down schools was the most destructive policy of the pandemic. McKinsey & Co. strengthened that thesis this week with a study that compared spring 2021 test results to previous pre-pandemic semesters.
McKinsey & Co. found that pandemic-era children were, on average, four months behind in reading and five months behind in math.
“[S]tudents who move on to the next grade unprepared are missing key building blocks of knowledge that are necessary for success,” the report finds.
“Students who repeat a year are much less likely to complete high school and attend college without immediate and sustained interventions.”
Looking ahead, the study predicts, based on test results of 1.6 million students in grades 1 through 6, that lost learning during the pandemic could cut lifetime earnings by $49,000 to $61,000 on average.
As predicted, the teacher unions responsible for the extended closing of schools disproportionately damaged students in low-income households. While affluent parents paid for tutors or private schooling, students whose household income was below $25,000 fell seven months behind in math and six months in reading.
The Wall Street Journal adds that children in majority-black schools ended the school year six months behind in math and reading.
Furthermore, students in poor and minority communities across the country often lacked the resources to participate in online learning, which was required of students. The National Education Association (NEA) estimates that 25% of school-age children did not have broadband access or a web-enabled device.
The Daily Wire released the following data in May.
In Los Angeles, 15%-20% of English learners, students in foster care, students with disabilities, and homeless students didn’t access any of the district’s online educational materials from March through May.
In Washington, D.C., back-to-school family surveys found that 60% of students lacked the devices and 27% lacked the high-speed internet access needed to successfully participate in virtual school.
In Miami-Dade County, 16,000 fewer students enrolled this fall compared with last year.
Because of the shift to virtual learning from in-classroom learning, the New York Times found that almost three million children had dropped out of full-time school. The Times’ report followed up a study in early 2021 that said over two million K-12 students were no longer showing up for school sessions, calling them essentially “off the grid.”
In addition, suicide rates drastically increased as schools remained closed over the past year.
Suspending in-class learning for an unreasonable length of time is undoubtedly the most consequential decision made during the pandemic. Moreover, it’s a decision that will negatively linger and loom over the country for years to come.