Opinion | How Big Were Pandemic Learning Losses, Really?

If this result is known with perfect clarity in the spring of 2020, what will be the public reaction? Certainly some will oppose the closure, including those who do not see the pandemic as a threat. But overall, I don’t think parents, teachers and administrators or political leaders would be appalled by this trade-off. With everything else being done at the time to reduce the spread – citywide lockdowns, months of social isolation and canceled events and gatherings – I think that cost would considered to be fairly easy to control. Perhaps many of these measures could be more effectively managed and could be applied in more targeted ways. But given how long school interruptions last and how frequent they are, the drop seems impressively small. (And since teachers’ unions have received a lot of criticism for delaying reopening – although parents surveyed were also often reluctant to return to school in person – it may be worth mentioning that the Surveys show that depending on the circumstances, the country’s teachers have also managed relatively well.)

Third, the size of the effect changes dramatically. In Colorado, where only 22 percent of students get a lot of face-to-face education, test scores drop only 5.4 percentage points from 2019 to 2021. In Minnesota, where 24 percent, costs are higher: 10 ,6 percentage points. At the state level, it’s hard to clearly see the relationship between school closures and the pandemic of learning loss, and when Oster breaks the data into groups by direct attendance level, the picture isn’t clear. much more. For example, in Indiana, scores at the “very low” level for face-to-face instruction fell 10 percentage points in reading and about three points in math, while those with a “very high” level of direct instruction ” dropped about eight points in each. In Minnesota, “low” human literacy schools lost about seven points in reading and nearly 14 points in math, while “high” schools lost nine points and 13 points.

Which says, some earlier and study in more detail showed a stronger correlation between reduced distance learning and district-level testing, which suggests that aggregating district data can fold many confounding variables into a well-established equation. is a complicated equation to unpack – and that distance learning, although not the only factor, has had a significant and significant negative impact. Poverty certainly also plays an important role, exacerbating the loss of learning, as in the past learn shows that school closure costs are much higher in poor districts. A similar move applies to racing, and while high-achieving students lose relatively small, low-achieving students suffer more. Closer examination yields an even more complex picture: In a helpful way meditation On experimental data for KQED, Jill Barshay points out that reading scores have been relatively stable during the pandemic, in inner-city school districts and across the West, while declines in math are much more common.

Fourth, we have seen a rebound effect, reflecting the fact that across the country, students appear to relearn at a “normal” pace. But the rebound effect is not as strong as one might hope, with some experts suggesting it will take three to five years to recover from setbacks. Overall, Oster estimates, students accounted for about 30% of their pandemic losses, as measured by 2022 tests, though there is again a range: Colorado has recovered more than half of its losses. damage, the achievement in 2022 is only 2.6 percentage points lower. baseline, while in Indiana, students have only recovered about 10% of their losses, and are nearly eight points behind this year. Meaning, we still don’t know how long these failures will last, but we do know that they are shrinking. And perhaps there is something to learn from Mississippi in particular, where, according to the 2022 test results, students have regained 80% of their pandemic losses.

How does all of this add up? Not all is neat – that may be the most important point. Throughout the pandemic, we have elicited narratives from messy experiences, trying to draw obvious lessons or allocating responsibility when reality is more complex and conflicting than emotion or consciousness. generation. In the summer of 2020, we’re against people running out or going to lake parties, and then against people traveling home on vacation, PCR will show up. We talked about “Red Covid” – as it is arguably a disproportionate Republican disease – when vaccination rates have never been much higher and mortality rates among the poor, uneducated and racially disenfranchised was never lower than those of Republicans. Because we know that vaccines significantly reduce individual disease risk, we have used the phrase “vaccinated and done” even when more people are vaccinated than Americans who are not. vaccinated are dying. We worry about teen depression with eating disorders may have The pandemic’s greatest mental health impact on adolescents.

And when it comes to schools, we fight the consequences of distance learning as if the current health and future well-being of an entire generation of students were on the line. What we’re starting to see more clearly now is that the consequences, while worth pondering, are probably not as large as either party feared. “Students do not fall behind, comparing the dynamic to a cross-country trip,” Barshay emphasizes. “Imagine that students are going 55 miles per hour, run out of gas and start walking,” she said. According to the test data, “they are now back in their cars and humming again at 55 mph. Some were traveling at 60 mph, catching up a bit, but they were still a long way from where they would have been if they hadn’t run out of gas. “

Next time, we should try to do better. But all things considered, the best data we have at the moment suggests that the school closures were probably a political and social stumbling block in the fog of war. not, as some have suggested, “Disastrous policy decision, invasion of Iraq (or possibly greater). “

David Wallace-Wells (@dwallacewells), an Opinion writer and a columnist for The New York Times Magazine, is the author of “The Uninhabitable Earth”.

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