Learning loss is real, and teachers unions owe an explanation

No parent needs to be told that remote learning during COVID was a disaster.

But a new study confirms it. Its findings cry out to heaven for accountability among those who brought this disaster upon their own school districts by ignoring science and keeping school buildings closed long after there was any justification.

Harvard researchers found that students in schools that stayed remote into 2020 lost the equivalent of half a school year of learning over the two-year window beginning in the fall 2019 academic year.

There was a significant difference between the students who went back to in-person learning after the initial jitters over COVID and the ones who did not. Students who returned to in-person schooling in fall 2020 lost only 20% of a school year.

Thus, in the mostly liberal jurisdictions that bowed to the teachers unions and kept schools closed long after there was any scientific justification, students suffered a loss that was 150% greater. It is also worth noting, with Democrats giving so much lip service to “equity” and “inclusion,” that their policies were much harder on school districts with high levels of poverty.

There was a direct correlation between learning loss in schools that went remote and the poverty level of the schools in question. Although conservatives have been pointing this out for years, this demonstrates once again that teachers unions have been especially harmful to the students who are most at risk.

This helps hammer home just how much damage teachers unions’ intransigence and other forms of COVID safetyism did to the educational system over the past two years. As an extra kick in the pants to the affected parents and their children, the states that played the biggest role in the problem are also the most likely to waste federal COVID relief on fake learning, such as critical race theory and other divisive, toxic, and ideological brainwashing efforts.

Parents have noted the schools’ failure in this regard, and they are not taking this lying down. This is why public school enrollment has plummeted.

This becomes especially evident when you look at individual school districts and how many students they have lost. Overall, public schools have lost a net 1.27 million students this academic year and last, but these losses are concentrated in specific states and districts.

According to the new Return to Learn Tracker, New York, Oregon, Hawaii, and California are all in the top five states for loss of student enrollment in their public schools, with each losing between 4% and 6% of their students. It gets even worse at the local level. Over the two-year period in question, Chicago lost 6.5% of its enrollment. The Los Angeles Unified School District lost 8% of its enrollment, while San Francisco’s lost nearly 9%. New York City public schools lost 9.5%, with Rochester’s losing 10.8%. Minneapolis lost nearly 13%. Richmond, Virginia, lost more than 14%.

Some of these students have entered private schools or home schooling. Some of them, especially in lower-income areas, just won’t be going back to school at all, which is very sad. Their resultant failures in life can be laid at the feet of the same malingering unions and spineless administrators who refused to do their jobs in fall 2020.

Between teachers unions’ unwillingness to work and administrators’ unwillingness to heed science and reopen, the public school industry has in some places literally decimated its own enrollment and influence. It would be a good thing — except that it comes at such a huge cost. The neglect of so many adults who knew better has caused a generational loss of learning that will never be fully recovered.