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MI Responds: Pandemic Years Saw Historic Decline in School Test Scores

Education Pre K-12

Manhattan Institute scholars respond to the National Assessment of Educational Progress report, which shows that reading and math scores declined sharply during the pandemic:

"The adults who defended prolonged school closures may simply want to wish away the consequences of their poor decisions. But they need to own them. Today’s NAEP scores make clear that it was the nation’s neediest children who paid the price for adult inaction. This is just the latest evidence confirming why many experts have called school closures one of the greatest domestic policy failures of the last quarter century. Now is the time to get to work. Policymakers should support education interventions that put children’s learning needs first and send adult-interests to the back of the bus."

Michael Hartney is an adjunct fellow at the Manhattan Institute, Hoover fellow, and assistant professor at Boston College. His new book, How Policies Make Interest Groups: Governments, Unions, and American Education, will be published this fall.

"This was a man-made disaster, not an inevitable consequence of COVID. Those who have been fighting to reopen schools since Fall 2020 knew that school was essential, that children faced the lowest risk of severe illness, and that children faced the most severe consequences of the prolonged shut down. The children who have thrived are those who had the opportunity to attend school in person. Moving forward, our policies must empower parents with the resources they need to do what’s right for their children."

Kathleen Porter-Magee is an adjunct fellow at the Manhattan Institute and superintendent of Partnership Schools, a network of urban Catholic schools in Harlem, the South Bronx, and Cleveland.

"Today's distressing NAEP results add to the body of evidence that student learning suffered during the COVID era. Much of the hard-earned progress in test scores made over the last generation was erased, and disadvantaged students fell farther behind. The biggest K-12 tasks for state policymakers during the next several years are finding ways to empower families to help their students catch up and enacting reforms that ensure that kids never again go so long without adequate schooling." 

Andy Smarick is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, where his work focuses on education, civil society, and the principles of American conservatism.