It’s no secret that education in America has been in a bad state for some time, and now the low level of student proficiency has been exacerbated by the hysterical response to the Covid outbreak. The results of a Harvard University study examining the role of distance and hybrid education in magnifying achievement disparities caused by race and school poverty were recently published.
Using test data from 2.1 million students in 10,000 schools in 49 states and DC, the researchers found that “the shift to distance or hybrid learning during 2020-21 had profound implications for student achievement. In remote districts, gains in achievement were lower for all subgroups, but particularly for students attending high-poverty schools. In areas that remained personal, “there were still modest falls in performance, but there was no widening of the gap between high and low poverty schools in math (and less widening in reading).”
Another study by curriculum and assessment provider Amplify examined test data from about 400,000 elementary school students in 37 states and found that students who did not read at grade level saw an increase, with literacy loss “disproportionately affecting the early elementary grades (K -2) concentrated”. .” The report also found that minority children suffered a disproportionate learning loss. As That Wall Street Journal reports, “During the last normal school year, only 34% of black and 29% of Hispanic second graders needed intensive intervention to catch up. This school year, 47% of black and 39% of hispanic second graders have fallen that far in literacy, compared to 26% of their white peers.”
And disturbingly, a longitudinal study by the Annie E. Casey Foundation finds that children “who can’t read well until third grade are four times more likely to leave school without a degree than proficient readers” and “for the worst readers, those.” [who] couldn’t even master the basic skills up to third grade, the rate is almost six times higher.”
The problems related to Covid are particularly tragic as they were very avoidable. Private schools and public schools in areas without dominant teachers’ unions did not suffer nearly as badly. A Catholic school right next to a closed public school usually stayed open.
So what is the increasingly corrupt educational establishment doing as a corrective? Two primary “fixes” are in the works: grade inflation and high school seniors who are functionally illiterate. In fact, a report released May 16 by ACT, a nonprofit organization that administers the college readiness test, finds evidence of grade inflation in high school seniors’ GPAs. While ACT scores declined between 2016 and 2021, the average GPA for students who took the test increased.
The trend was particularly evident among black students and students from low- to middle-income households. Unfortunately, this is nothing new. Metropolitan areas, with their justice-obsessed leadership and powerful teachers’ unions, know they must show they can’t fail. Instead of offering real rigor and firing bad teachers, they just raise the grades.
Detroit is a particularly egregious case. While 72% of the city’s students will graduate from high school this year, only 8% of them are academically ready for college.
Baltimore is even more pathetic. At the city’s Patterson High School, only 3% of students are in grade level, 79% of students are tested at the elementary level, and 18% have preschool and elementary school proficiency. One student graduated from Patterson High School without the ability to read, and 41% of the city’s high school students have a GPA less than a 1.0.
Notably, Sonja Santelises, CEO of Baltimore City Schools, which has now been in office for five years, makes $375,688 annually even as student performance continues to decline.
Boston, where only 25% of black elementary school students test English at grade level, is facing a state takeover. To cope with failure at K-12, some college teachers no longer grade students on writing. Two Boston University professors ridiculously explain that “non-grading” “inspires students and creates justice.”
Another head-in-the-sand way to deal with the big unravel is the soon-to-be-dumbed SAT. As Auguste Meyrat, an English teacher in the Dallas area, reports: “The test will be entirely digital and will be reduced from around three hours to two. The reading passages are shortened and the math section allows the use of a pocket calculator throughout. In short, the test becomes easier for both the testers and the person being tested.”
Teachers’ unions have not commented on the general dumbing down or widespread grade inflation, but the National Education Association did comment on the issue in 2017. Predictably, the union played it down quite a bit, denigrating the Conservatives. The union quoted far-left Alfie Kohn, a longtime critic of letter grades, as warning that “a focus on grade inflation is likely to be driven ‘more by conservative ideologies than evidence.'” The NEA added: “These are certainly not difficult posts Imagine how headlines hyping an “epidemic” of class inflation spill into right-wing topics of discussion about public schools covering up failures and indifferent teachers casually giving A’s to students as they walk out the classroom door.”
NEA’s concerns lie elsewhere. Most recently, the union has been developing strategies to fight what’s really on its mind: climate change and the fact that the Supreme Court could scrap race-based college admissions policies and relax restrictions on school prayer. And then there’s the perpetual mantra of teachers’ unions that lack of funding is a problem.
But the funding claim is of course deceptive. The US spent $752.3 billion on its 48 million children in public schools in 2019, 35% more per student than the average for Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries, a nearly 5% increase over the previous year. At the same time, less than 40% of US students in grades 4, 8, and 12 are proficient or better in a core subject.
Luckily the parents woke up with the madness. According to the invaluable Return to Learn Tracker, 19 of 46 states saw public school enrollment decline by 3% or more from 2020 to 2022, but only five states saw net gains. An interesting policy takeaway is that school district enrollment declines were relatively similar in 2020-21, regardless of 2020 voting patterns. But in 2021-22, most districts that voted for Trump recovered during enrollment in those who voted for Biden continued to decline.
Perhaps Los Angeles is the poster child for declining enrollments. As The Los Angeles TimesAs Howard Blume reports, enrollment in Los Angeles public schools is expected to fall by almost 30% over the next decade. There are many reasons for the expected decline: urban exodus, lower birth rates, the rise of charter schools, and most importantly, the rise in home schooling that propelled LA from 3.7% to 8.4% in 2020.
Homeschooling has more than doubled nationwide since 2020 and shows no sign of slowing down, even though most of the Covid madness has subsided. The Census Bureau reports that the number of homeschooling families remained steady at about 3.3% between 2012 and 2020. But as of May 2020, about 5.4% of U.S. households with school-age children reported being homeschooled. And by October 2020, the number rose to 11.1%. Meanwhile, the number of Black families choosing to home school has nearly quintupled in that time, from 3.3% to 16.1%.
Covid shutdowns. teacher union dominance. Stupid curricula. The dissemination of low expectations. Education in America is crumbling very quickly and parents need to take notice and act. If not, our country will become unrecognizable in the not too distant future.
This article was originally published on FrontPageMag.
Larry Sand, a former homeroom teacher, is the nonprofit’s president California Teachers Empowerment Network – a non-partisan, non-political group dedicated to providing teachers and the general public with reliable and balanced information on professional affiliations and positions on educational issues. The views expressed here are solely his own.