How remote learning and school closures have brought down school performance in the US

A more detailed picture of children’s educational losses in the pandemic is forming. In October, the US National Center for Education Statistics published a report of declines in children’s grades in every state across the country, especially in math. Young people who finished school in the period are arriving with serious disabilities at universities, when they do. Enrollment for higher education has dropped 4.2% in the US since 2020, preliminary data from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center reveals. Remote learning and school closures are the main culprits.

The various signs of trouble “all show that we have a crisis,” he told the New York Times

Stanley Litow, professor of public policy at Duke University and former secretary of New York City Public Schools. He also commented that the most affected students are from groups “that we are most interested in helping as much as possible”, such as low-income, black and Hispanic students, who seem “to be moving against the grain”. An institution of higher education historically dedicated to black people in the state of South Carolina, Benedict College, has seen enrollment drop from an average of 700 before the pandemic to 378 this year.

Literature teachers report fewer difficulties in freshmen, but report higher levels of anxiety and less willingness to seek help . A New York Times poll involving 362 school counselors taken in April showed that 86% of them report that children have more difficulty concentrating in the classroom, compared to the period before the pandemic. For 94%, students have more signs of anxiety and depression. In the opinion of 88% of counselors, children now have greater difficulty in regulating their emotions, and for 85% the problem behavior that increased the most were chronic absences. School counselor is a common position in the United States that involves training in psychological therapy.

Parents Agree: in a survey by the Pew Research Center , who heard more than three thousand of them with children aged from preschool to high school, 61% said that the first year of the pandemic had a negative impact on their children’s education and emotional health.

Biggest drop in decades

The decline of math ability among American students was the highest ever seen since assessment with current methods was inaugurated in the early 2000s 1990. Nine-year-olds have dropped to the math and reading levels of two decades ago, the first drop seen in years 1970. The worst grades dropped four times more than the best grades. The sample from the National Center for Education Statistics is 19.800 nine-year-old students. Its test, known as the National Assessment of Educational Progress, is considered the best educational thermometer in the United States, as it is standardized, has remained consistent over the years, and does not lead to punishments against schools for their results.

The assessment showed half a century of progress, stronger between the Clinton and Bush administrations, interrupted by the pandemic. Distance learning with tools like Zoom and school closures were common in the country – in large urban centers, in school districts that serve the low-income population, public schools were even closed for months in a row. An analysis of the effects of lockdown measures led by Casey Mulligan of the University of Chicago’s Department of Economics concluded that “there was a strong relationship between states that had poor economic performance and closed schools.” School closures did not show a relationship with better or worse health outcomes.

The state of Florida maintained 96% of its schools opened in 2020 and 2021. This did not impact local Covid mortality, which is within the country’s average. Sweden did not adopt school closures, among other restrictive health measures, going against international pressure, and had no educational losses while maintaining an excess death rate in the period better than the European average.

What about Brazil?

A study from June of 2021, first authored by Guilherme Lichand, economist at University of Zurich (Switzerland), considered the effects of distance learning in the state of São Paulo, one of the states with the most lockdowns. The authors found that remote learning was associated with a 378% increase in the risk of dropping out of school. In addition, based on the drop in test scores, they calculated that students only learned 14, 5% of the content that they would have learned if the classes had been face-to-face.

The methods allow us to exclude Covid itself as causes 19 and its economic impacts, meaning these results can be safely attributed to school closure and remote learning policies. “The social costs of keeping schools closed in the pandemic are very high,” the researchers conclude. The observed evasion has no equivalent in developed countries. “Such huge impacts are likely to have long-lasting effects on employment, productivity and poverty levels.” The study was financed by the Inter-American Development Bank and the Secretary of Education of the State of São Paulo.

A report by 2020 of the Organization for Cooperation and Economic Development (OECD) calculated that if there was an educational loss of a certain minimum amount just that year, with a return to normality later, that would represent a loss of 1.5% of the future gross domestic product of the United States, an economic loss of US$14, 2 trillion (BRL73, 1 trillion). The drop in school performance observed in the São Paulo study is triple the minimum value used in the OECD projection.

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