The National Assessment of Educational Progress, the most trusted barometer of children’s classroom progress, has just delivered bad but expected news. Post-COVID-19 lockdown testing found that kids are going backward in reading and math.
Thirteen-year-olds who took the NAEP test during the 2022-2023 school year performed at lower levels in math and reading, basic but essential disciplines. In reading, the average scores declined 4 points and 9 points in mathematics, compared to the previous assessments administered during the 2019-20 school year.
Compared to a decade ago, average scores declined 7 points in reading and 14 points in mathematics. Even more troubling, test-score gaps between students in low-poverty and high-poverty elementary schools grew by approximately 20% in math and 15% in reading, primarily during the 2020-21 school year – COVID’s onset.
Scores fell for kids at all percentiles but declined most sharply for students already performing at or near the bottom. The across-the-board failures will be devastating – students in their early high school years won’t be able to do long division or read and understand simple paragraphs.
Neither parents nor teachers should be surprised at the alarming results that two years of remote learning produced. “Learning” is defined loosely because early in the COVID classroom lockdown, students struggled not only with absorbing their lessons but also with social and psychological barriers, the consequences of which are just now unfolding. A Pew Research Center report found that 40% of parents worry that their adolescent children struggle with depression, and a slightly lower percentage noted that their kids fear being abducted, beaten or bullied.
Going forward, children unfairly victimized by questionable school shutdown mandates will need their teachers’ full support, determination and dedication to bring the kids back to grade level on basic skills.
But at the exact time when struggling students need their teachers’ undivided attention, public schools are coping, often unsuccessfully, with decades of loose border policies from Republican and Democratic administrations. That has spiked legal and illegal immigrant enrollment in schools nationwide.
To deconstruct the status of public education as it relates to school demographics, the Center for Immigration Studies merged Census Bureau data with Google Maps API to provide a portrait of legal and illegal immigration’s effect on K-12.
Briefly excerpted from the detailed CIS breakdown, researchers found that immigrant-headed households tend to have more students in school on average than households headed by U.S.-born citizens. A larger share of students from immigrant households also come from low-income families and speak a foreign language at home. That likely creates significant burdens for many schools, often located in areas that already struggle to educate students who come from disadvantaged or minority backgrounds.
About 11 million students live in immigrant households, a significant share of the 49.5 million total enrollment.
Moreover, immigration has added disproportionately to the number of low-income students in public schools. In 2021, 21% of public school students from immigrant households lived in poverty and accounted for 29% of all students who live below the poverty line. The significant influx of immigrant students and their learning needs add to the post-COVID challenges with which teachers are coping.
Public education bureaucrats and teachers are on the precipice. Not only do they have the uphill climb to catch their students up with the two years lost to COVID, but they must also educate students from around the world who may speak little, if any, English.
For teachers, worse classroom conditions may lie ahead. Because of the lag in Census Bureau data collection, with the Biden administration’s agenda of not ensuring the security of our borders, which began in 2021, there may be worse to come in the data.
Teachers are fed up. They’re leaving the profession in droves. COVID was mismanaged, which is too late to correct now. In immigration, however, time still remains to right the ship – or at least to keep conditions from worsening.
Numbers matter, and fewer entries through the border would be best for all of America’s students.
Joe Guzzardi is a Project for Immigration Reform analyst who has written about immigration for more than 30 years. Contact him at email@example.com.