Parents can leave the failing public school system

“The pandemic has erased two decades of math and reading,” The New York Times said in response to an alarming report from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), also known as the National Report Card. But it wasn’t a virus that caused the country’s severe learning loss crisis. It’s the cruel policies of the COVID era — implemented by teachers’ unions, education bureaucrats and negligent school boards — that have driven test scores down.

By closing schools for extended periods and further disrupting learning with quarantine policies and mask mandates, unions and school district leaders have seriously harmed a generation of children. Union-funded politicians will try to deflect blame, but parents know who is responsible.

The math scores of nine-year-old American children have fallen for the first time since testing began in the early 1970s, according to the NAEP. Average student reading scores fell five points between 2020 and 2022 – the most steep decline for decades. Acting Associate Commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics, Daniel McGrath, observed: “These are some of the largest declines we have seen in a single assessment cycle in 50 years of NAEP program.

The tests found that economically disadvantaged students suffered the steepest declines, with these students’ reading scores falling twice as much as those of other students.

Unions and education bureaucrats have widened the achievement gap by keeping schools closed longer in districts with high percentages of low-income and minority students. Reading scores fell by 6 points and math scores by 13 points for nine-year-old black children nationwide. Hispanic students lost 6 points in reading and 8 points in math. White students also saw their reading score drop by 6 points. From 2020 to 2022, scores fell for all students except Asian students’ reading scores.

Although reading and math scores fell for students at all performance levels, students who were already struggling in school fared significantly worse. The math scores of the top performers (90th percentile) fell by 3 points, but the scores of the lowest performers (10th percentile) fell by 12 points. No student wins in this scenario, with the highest performing students only receiving a score of 265 out of 500 and the lowest performing students only getting 155 out of 500.

While the Wall Street Journal headline, “Randi Weingarten Flunks the Pandemic,” places the blame squarely, it should be noted that the American Federation of Teachers union president and her bureaucratic and political cronies were failing kindergarten students. in grade 12 long before COVID arrived. NAEP scores were down before the early 2020 tests, and the 2022 results reveal students are performing at the same level as two decades ago.

This new NAEP report lays bare the catastrophic failure of the nation’s K-12 education system.

The parents had predicted these horrible results. We demanded that schools reopen and we told school boards that disruptive quarantine and masking policies were hurting our children. Parents are trying to hold school districts accountable for the $190 billion they received in additional federal funding for education — money intended to address learning loss and keep schools open.

Media coverage of the NAEP results may shed some welcome light on these failures, but it will not result in a more parent-friendly K-12 education system. Fortunately, parents can vote with their feet and leave schools assigned by the local government. Pandemic-era policies have inspired many families to choose private school, home school, charter school and micro-school options, with nearly 2 million students leaving the public system between 2020 and 2022, according to an Education Next survey. The survey found that while 76% of students attend a traditional public school, enrollment in alternative schools has increased since 2020, with 9.7% of students attending private schools, 7.2% attending charters and 6.6% home schooling.

With states like Arizona now offering Universal Education Savings Accounts (ESAs) that allow parents to direct funding for their child’s education, more parents than ever before are empowered to leave the public school system. failing. The NAEP test results paint a harrowing picture of the damage the system has inflicted on millions of children. Parents in every state should demand access to education options that meet the needs of their children.

Jeremy S. McLain