#MNR: KNOWLEDGE REIGNS SUPREME
“The school dropout – never liked that shit from day one.”
I recently had a conversation with a person who shared that, when thinking about school-aged children, she now shaves a year or two off their physical ages because of COVID. She is certain that the virus has had that much of an impact on their overall development, especially those who were entering or had recently become school aged. A seven-year-old isn’t seven in her eyes; that baby is actually a five-year-old, and so on. She oversees a major SACC (school-aged childcare) program, so she is well-qualified to speak on the age group. I’m far removed from my SACC days, so I can’t (with any accuracy) speak on the babies. However, I can speak on high school-aged students because both of my gigs deal with the age group. It is evident that their cumulative development took a hit after being sidelined by the pandemic. But how much, exactly? Fuck if I know, but I’m noticing things. I noticed that when we first returned from the COVID school closures, several of the “hard rocks” didn’t return. I spoke with one and he said that he was going to finish through home instruction. He was done going through the rigor and routine of attending school. He had no desire to return. I thought this was quite ironic because one thing I’ve noticed about the belligerent kids is that they came to school for the aesthetics. They got up every morning and made their way to school for everything OUTSIDE of the classroom and learning environment. They didn’t care much for the academics, but they loved all the non-academic, extracurricular shit. I’m talking about those hallways (and all that comes with them), the girls, the bros...the shit a lot of kids love about the schoolhouse. None of that mattered to old boy anymore. Again, he was done. He wasn’t the only one.
So, what exactly does it say when the kids that loved to come to school for all the mischief they could get into don’t GAF anymore? Who knows? Perhaps it just reveals that they’ve matured. Perhaps they are no longer concerned with all the silly things. Maybe they’ve grown up. We have no way of interpreting social development, but we can interpret academic development through test scores. The reports are in, and they are about what we (I) expected them to be.
Fourth and eighth graders, according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, had the “largest ever decline in math,” which is attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic. Often referred to as the “Nation’s Report Card,” the findings were conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics (a branch of the Education Department).
The first national assessment of student achievement in three years revealed the largest decline in fourth-and-eighth-grade math scores since the initial trial in 1990. Tests were administered between January and March. There were no states or large urban districts that showed improvements in math. Eighth-grade math scores sank across the board. Most of us know that eighth grade is a “gateway” year for more advanced math (Algebra, Geometry, etc.). The assessment shows that these students lack essential skills for further development, especially in STEM-related careers. Scores for fourth grade were five points lower than the last assessments in 2019 and eight points lower for eighth grade. Fourth grade and eighth grade reading scores were both down three points compared to 2019. Scores haven’t declined this much in decades.
The Nation’s Report Card gives the first in-depth look into how health crisis disruptions that led to virtual learning affected fourth-and-eighth-grade students nationally. It should come as no surprise that the pandemic had a disproportionate impact across most racial and ethnic groups. Nevertheless, all students, irrespective of ability, are declining. There is no data that quantifies a measurable difference in performance between states and school districts solely on the length of school closures. Declines in average math and reading scores spanned the entire country. No region was spared. Experts expected a decline in math, but reading was a bit surprising, as parents and others in the community are normally more comfortable with helping students in reading.
As former North Carolina governor and Chair of the National Assessment Governing Board Beverly Perdue states in the CNN article, “This must be a wake-up call for the country that we have to make education a priority.” That goes without saying.
These test scores are a direct reflection of ALL the inadequacies that were illuminated by the pandemic, pre-existing as well as those birthed in 2020. We can hammer virtual learning and inequalities all we want, but they’re only a part of the blame. Parents also shoulder a great deal of the blame. I sat in Microsoft Teams virtual classes during the pandemic. I watched kids fail to turn the computer on and attend class. I watched kids attend class but fail to turn/keep cameras on during class, even after being told repeatedly that no camera meant an absence. I spoke with kids who failed during virtual learning simply because they didn’t turn in work. The fault, in my eyes, is an even majority split between the students and their parents. I too blame virtual learning, but all things considered, it was the best option at the time. Yes, it is the students’ responsibility to get the work done. That does not absolve parents from doing their due diligence. If there was ever a time to go the extra mile in a child’s learning and development, the virtual learning period was the time. I’ll say this: if you are a parent who feels that your child’s education is the sole responsibility of the school and its teachers – you are a bloody idiot. Parents knew that extended virtual learning was a unique experience to students at every level. The babies missed the additional nurturing and rudimentary learning the most. Elementary kids missed social development the most. Middle school children missed the academic transition the most. High school students missed the routine the most. Everyone suffered. It was a time when parents needed to give extra attention and become in-home pedagogues. Uh, I dunno guys (Butters from SouthPark voice). I don’t know which parents stepped up to the task and which did not. All we know is the data. Y’all love to utter the fallacious statement “numbers don’t lie.” They often do, but I believe that they’re telling the unabridged truth this time around. American students are slipping academically, and the pandemic was the catalyst. I say it’s time to get back to the basics. A, B, C is easy as 1, 2, 3...
JUST IN: PRAYERS TO THE VICTIMS OF THE LATEST SCHOOL SHOOTING IN ST. LOUIS. MY BROTHER PERSONALLY KNOWS TWO OF THE KIDS WHO WERE SHOT.
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