The percentage of schoolchildren in Virginia who are missing reading benchmarks increased by double digits since the onset of COVID-19 — a trend that is repeating itself in other parts of the country.
According to a University of Virginia study highlighted by Axios, 21.3% of kindergarten through second-grade students in the commonwealth fell below their reading benchmarks in the fall of 2019. One year later, the rate had increased to 30.8%, reaching heights of 34.9% by 2021.
“As schools closed and districts struggled to adapt to remote teaching, students were forced to learn the basics of reading outside the classroom with varying access to online instruction,” Axios commented. “Below benchmark rates are still largely moving in the wrong direction and a higher proportion of students than ever before are at medium to high risk for reading difficulties.”
The effects were particularly harmful for black and Hispanic students, as well as children who are disabled, low-income, or not fluent in English.
Researchers and school administrators are witnessing similar trends across the nation and among multiple age cohorts. Following COVID-19 shutdowns, four in 10 Baltimore public high school students earned below a 1.0 GPA.
“It’s heartbreaking,” former Baltimore City Council President candidate Jovani Patterson told Fox Baltimore last summer. “If almost half of our kids are failing, what options do they have after high school? This is really disheartening. It’s sad to see this.”
Although the declines in school performance are alarming, economists predict that poor education outcomes will reverberate far beyond the COVID-19 era.
A group of economists from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School forecasted that American economic productivity will be reduced by 3.6% over the next three decades as a result of school closures. Since labor productivity is “an integral component of the production of goods, services, and wealth in an economy,” students affected by “reduced education and lower productivity” will be a “drag on the future GDP of the United States for decades in the future.”
“A drop in productivity drags down economic growth and wages,” the analysts’ report explained. “Government tax revenues decline and, consequently, government debt cumulates more quickly.”
The economists also found that school closures have a more pronounced impact on low-income students. By 2050, disadvantaged primary and secondary schoolers will see their wealth reduced by 15.2% and 11.2%; for non-disadvantaged primary and secondary schoolers, the expected drops in wealth are 14.4% and 10.7%.
Nevertheless, teachers unions are continuing to force schools into shutdowns. This week, the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers announced that it would induce a strike for the first time in decades — shutting 30,000 students out of the classroom for reasons that include the “recruitment and retention of educators of color.”
COVID-19 lockdowns and the rising popularity of left-wing instruction in public schools — especially Critical Race Theory (CRT) — have motivated many parents to seek new educational opportunities for their children. From March 2020 to September 2020 alone, homeschooling rates across the United States grew between 5.4% and 11%.