From the start of the nation’s COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, there has been little doubt that it would have a deep and adverse effect on our nation’s students. Early analysis and preliminary estimates indicated that disrupted learning patterns brought on by the pandemic would negatively impact students—particularly English learners and other vulnerable children.
This fall those assumptions were confirmed. Recent results from the federally funded National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) show that decades of academic progress in reading and math were erased from 2020 to 2022.
The NAEP results are dire. Math performance of 9-year-old students fell for the first time in the history of the long-term trend assessments and reading scores saw the biggest drop in three decades. The scores of Hispanic and African American students fell even more significantly.
The NAEP results serve as an urgent reminder that education leaders must double down on their efforts to support recovery programs and accelerate student learning. Since 2020, Congress and state legislatures have passed funding measures that can support programs to mitigate learning loss. These programs take various forms including tutoring, extended day initiatives, and summer programs. Three federal relief funding measures allocated nearly $200 billion for K-12 needs related to the pandemic, including learning recovery. (To put this number in perspective, the U.S. Department of Education currently spends $42.6 billion annually for K-12 programs.) School districts nationwide have until Sept. 30, 2024, to spend the final and largest tranche of the relief funding money, which comes from the American Rescue Plan.
While the recent federal and state allocations for learning recovery programs are very significant, the question remains: Is it enough to turn around decades of academic progress?
The debate is beginning. A growing number of educators and research say more is needed. A study published on October 11 in Educational Researcher, a journal published by the American Educational Research Association, asserts that an additional $500 billion is needed to support recovery programs.
While it is highly unlikely that Congress would allocate $500 billion in new funding for learning, the new study will certainly fuel debate on how much should be spent on learning recovery efforts and how much it will eventually cost our society if we don’t.
Future blogs in this series will take a look at the K–12 programs that support language learners and their teachers, as well as recent funding increases at the state and federal levels.
By Jay A. Diskey
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