D.C. Students’ Pandemic Learning Loss Higher Than U.S. Average
By September 6, 2022 2 441•
Just released scores from the national academic report on elementary and high school academic achievement known as PARCC, show that school children in Washington, D.C., public and charter schools experienced learning losses in math and reading above the historic drops recorded nationally.
Third-to-eighth graders and high school students who were required to be tested in the spring showed a national drop of 7 points in math and 5 points in reading. In the District, the overall loss in math was 12 percent (from 31 percent who passed the test in 2019 to 19 percent in 2022 – the lowest ever recorded in the city). Overall D.C. student scores fell 8 points in reading – from 38 percent who were reading at grade level in 2019 to only 30 percent in 2022. Losses were even greater for Black students in the District. “Two decades of academic progress has been erased,” according to The Washington Post.
Lower scores were expected, according to D.C. school officials, after the past two difficult years when schools were closed and remote learning and then restricted schooling with vaccine, masking and social distancing mandates dominated education delivery since March 2020.
“The most harm from the pandemic has been done to students with the greatest needs,” Deputy Mayor for Education Paul Kihn said. “But the trends and widening gaps are national. In the District, interim data from local education agencies suggest that students are indeed on a path to recovery.”
The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers develop and administer the congressionally authorized standardized exams for the Department of Education mandated to be given in every state each spring. The National Education Statistics Center analyzes the data and every fall, issues the Assessment of Educational Progress — its “national report card.” The losses reported this year are national and were somewhat expected, according to NESC. Most experts blame the closure of schools due to pandemic concerns for the fall of student achievement.
School closures varied by states, however. D.C. schools under the authority of the mayor’s office were kept closed longer than most states, thereby exasperating the “clearly damaging time when children were denied face-to-face classroom time,” wrote the Wall Street Journal in its lead editorial on Sept. 2. The Wall Street Journal echoed many educational experts who blamed the American Federation of Teachers –- the nation’s largest national teachers’ union — for its campaigns to keep teachers out of the classroom and schools closed, even after schools in Europe and Florida opened without damaging consequences. “National test results reveal the damage from school closures,” the WSJ concluded.
On Sept. 6, Randi Weingarten, the AFT President, wrote in a rebuttal letter to the WSJ editor claiming that it wasn’t her union but President Trump’s education secretary (2017 to 2020) Betsy DeVos who was to blame. “It was DeVos who championed remote and hybrid learning,” Weingarten wrote.
“There is little value in pointing fingers and casting blame,” proclaims a Washington Post editorial on Sept. 6. “What is needed is an action plan for what schools can do.” The Office of the State Superintendent of Schools is putting about $40 million into hiring and training “high impact tutors -– especially for reading. New curriculum includes training teachers to teach reading based on phonics. In addition, a new math curriculum called “illustrative math” will allow teachers to enhance math instruction especially for our secondary students,” according to DC Public Schools Chancellor Lewis B. Ferebee. Congress has allocated $190 billion to schools to help with the pandemic responses.