The school closures during the corona pandemic have had disastrous consequences for American elementary school students. The negative effects have mainly been felt by weak pupils, children in suburbs and in small towns.
This is evident from the ‘National Report’ that the Center for Education Statistics published on Wednesday. The core of this is a national test among 14,800 children aged nine years, in which the results were compared with a test for the same age category in 2020.
Reading skills were found to have declined by an average of five points over those two years, from 220 to 215 — the strongest decline since 1990. Their math score fell by seven points from 241 to 234 — the sharpest drop since the first nationwide test in 1971. was taken. The so-called National Assessment is considered the most reliable test in the United States.
“I was surprised by the magnitude of the decline,” said Peggy Carr, head of the center that conducted the test. According to her, the most important finding is that the skills of the students have not improved at any point or in any category. Incidentally, the statistics distributed by the center show that between 2012 and 2020 both reading and math skills decreased slightly on average.
Poor children without computers seem to be more disadvantaged
The biggest blows fell on weaker students. In reading, the weakest nine-year-olds lost ten points, the students with the highest scores only two points. In math, the difference was twelve and three points, respectively. Children with an African or Latin American background fell further back than other students.
Also read: When this American school closed, much more than a classroom closed
Poor children, expressed in terms of the number of children entitled to free lunch at school, also fell further behind. That seems to be directly related to the question of which students had a computer – a condition for participating in the online classes that were given during the lockdowns.
Only the weakest students had access to a computer in only 58 percent of the cases, a quarter could only use high-speed internet and only 15 percent of them had someone to help them with homework once or twice a week. Among children in the highest quarter of the score, 83 percent had access to a computer, 43 percent had high-speed internet, and 23 percent had occasional help with homework.
Educationalists who made themselves heard in the American media concluded that the mutual differences between underprivileged and underprivileged children will increase very quickly in the coming years. Test scores, even in the lowest grades of primary education, are a merciless predictor of children’s educational careers.
Mixed picture in the Netherlands
By way of comparison: in the Netherlands, the National Education Cohort Study conducted a study last spring into the learning performance at primary school after the first school closure, which revealed a mixed picture. In arithmetic, mathematics and spelling, the backlogs due to home learning had not yet been made up. But reading comprehension was already at pre-pandemic levels.
A version of this article also appeared in the newspaper of September 2, 2022