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School closures widened achievement gaps | EDITORIAL

Evidence continues to pour in that closing schools as a pandemic precaution has been devastating for children. We’ve been saying it for two years.

Earlier this month, Harvard’s Center for Education Policy Research published an analysis of learning loss and remote iinstruction. It looked at data from more than 2 million students in 49 states and Washington, D.C. The researchers compared students’ academic growth before the pandemic to progress during the pandemic. This allowed them to assess performance differences between in-person and remote learning. To the surprise of anyone who hasn’t been awake in two years, the students who stayed on campus did better.

The researchers found that students who were in class lost about 20% of the year of math learning, The New York Times reported. Some of that may stem from school closures in the spring of 2020. But students forced to attend school virtually for most of the year have fared far worse. They lost about 50% of a year’s worth of learning.

Additionally, students in high-poverty schools that opened had less math learning loss than students in low-poverty schools that remained closed.

Score one for the governors — mostly Republicans — who allowed schools to reopen in the fall of 2020 despite relentless criticism from progressives. It was then clear that the virus posed little danger to children and that schools could operate safely. Children in these states will reap a lifetime of benefits because someone had the courage to stand up to the teachers’ unions who were hysterically lamenting children being taken away in body bags.

The insistence on keeping campuses closed in many blue states was especially difficult for low-income students. “In school districts that were remote for most of 2020-21, high-poverty schools experienced 50% more loss of achievement than low-poverty schools,” the report said. The researchers found that “mathematics achievement gaps did not widen in domains that remained in person,” although reading gaps increased slightly.

It also exacerbated the racial achievement gap, as black and Hispanic students were more likely to attend very poor schools. “If achievement losses become permanent, there will be major implications for future earnings, racial equity, and income inequality, especially in states where distance education was common,” the authors write.

This should ring alarm bells in Clark County and prompt school officials to aggressively implement programs to bring kids up to speed. Instead, Superintendent Jesus Jara seems more focused on diluting academic standards.

This is another reason Nevada parents, especially in low-income families, need more options, including school choice.