Young schoolchildren experienced the worst drop in math and reading scores in decades during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new report from the U.S. Department of Education (DOE).

The just released results from the DOE come from the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP), also known as our “Nation’s Report Card.” The test of our nation’s fourth graders is taken every year, and this year’s findings aren’t pretty.

“Average scores for age 9 students in 2022 declined 5 points in reading and 7 points in mathematics compared to 2020,” the report found. “This is the largest average score decline in reading since 1990, and the first ever score decline in mathematics.”

NAEP Report Card

Photo Credit: U.S. DOE

According to the NAEP, the decline in mathematics scores were worse for African American students than for white students.

“The 13-point score decrease among Black students compared to the 5-point decrease among White students resulted in a widening of the White-Black score gap from 25 points in 2020 to 33 points in 2022,” the report found.

“These are some of the largest declines in 50 years,” said Acting National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) Associated Commissioner Daniel McGrath.

Some experts are expressing concern that the learning that was lost due to school closures may never be recovered.

“I don’t think we can expect to see these 9-year-olds catch up by the time they leave high school,” said Dr. Aaron Pallas, professor of Sociology and Education at Teachers College, Columbia University. “This is not something that is going to disappear quickly.”

This National Report Card reveals something that many people have known since shortly after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Namely, isolating children and disrupting their normal learning patterns had a profoundly negative, and likely permanent, effect on millions of our nation’s children.

It’s important to note that this impact isn’t a surprise.

As the Daily Citizen reported in March 2021, six senators wrote a letter to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) urging the agency to help reopen schools.

“If the reopening of schools is not achieved, American families and students will only continue to suffer, as there will be even larger developmental, learning, and economic losses,” the letter warned.

School closures also had a dramatically negative effect on children’s mental health and wellbeing.

According to a study recounted by Dr. Marty Makary, a professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, lockdowns and school closures negatively impacted children in the following ways:

  • There was a 91 percent increase in self-harm in children due to lockdowns.
  • There was a 300 percent increase in kids seeking medical help for self-harm in areas with strict government-mandated lockdowns.
  • There was a 63 percent increase in overdoses and a large spike in emergency room visits due to “mental illness complaints.”

In a piece for the Washington Examiner, Senior Columnist Timothy Carney argues that the COVID-19 pandemic was not responsible for this breathtaking drop in learning and education.

Rather, the government’s response to the pandemic was.

“COVID-19 has left a terrible trail of death and illness, but the coronavirus is not the cause of the learning loss,” Carney writes. “It was the local politicians, governors, school boards, and public health authorities who harmed our children by advocating or mandating unjustifiable school closures in the fall of 2020 – and then into the spring.

“Those school closures were a mistake, and the people in charge knew or should have known it at the time. The damage to students (academic, emotional, and social) was obvious to every parent after the three-month closure in early 2020. Children’s relative safety in the face of the virus was also well-known by the fall of 2020.

“The people who nonetheless closed the schools bear full blame for the lasting harm they have done to children. All of them should lose their jobs.”

It’s vitally important for us to recognize the harm that the government, with the aid of teachers unions, inflicted on our country’s children.

Then as a nation, we should all affirm the following: never again.

It’s increasingly important for parents to be intensely involved in their children’s education. Parents must be aware of what their children are learning in school.

If you’re worried about what your child is being taught in school, check out the following new resource from Focus on the Family: Back to School for Parents: A busy parent’s guide to what’s happening in your children’s classrooms and practical steps you can take to protect them.

Related articles and resources:

Back to School for Parents

D.C. Mayor Bars Unvaccinated Students From In-Person School and Virtual Learning

Most Americans Oppose COVID-19 Vaccine Requirement for Schoolchildren, Poll Finds

Fairfax School Board Votes to Suspend Students for ‘Maliciously Misgendering’ Other Students

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