We already knew that the educational and social disruptions of COVID hit American students academically. Now comes a clear statistical representation of just how significant the setback was in New York.
State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli did the homework and found that the youth of the Empire State sustained losses in fourth grade math and reading that were twice the national average. Using results from the gold-standard National Assessment of Educational Progress as a guide, the analysis found that between 2019 and 2022, fourth-grade students regressed 10 points on average in math and six points in reading, compared to five points and three points respectively, on average, in the United States.
In eighth grade, the image here was better. Students dropped six points in math over the three-year period, slightly better than the nation’s eight-point loss. In reading, scores held steady, a slight improvement from the three-point decline nationally.
Tracking the statistics with anecdotal experience: The younger students are, the more difficult it is for them to adjust to the patchy and impromptu nature of online and hybrid learning. The younger they are, the more they need the structure of a classroom and the encouragement and direction of a classroom teacher.
But it’s too late for regrets. What to do with the state the children are in? Focus effective educational interventions on those who suffered the most, to ensure that today’s struggling fourth graders are not future struggling eighth graders and high school dropouts. That’s what Mayor Adams and Schools Chancellor David Banks say they have done with the help of millions in federal pandemic aid, even as school enrollments decline and the city budget tightens.
Time and future evaluations will tell if those efforts are paying off. Hopefully, schools are adapting as they go along to ensure that what they’re trying to do works. One thing is for sure: we cannot afford another round of failed experiments like the massive educational malpractice that was the COVID years. Children need instruction that has been proven to help them learn, not so-called solutions designed for adult comfort.