Nationwide School Closures Continue To Impact Kids

Nationwide School Closures Continue To Impact Kids

Schools are starting to close down again in some areas of the country in an apparent effort to keep teachers happy, but parents are speaking out against the negative impacts of schooling interruptions. 

According to The New York Times, at least six Michigan school districts prolonged Thanksgiving break, and three districts in Washington randomly closed on the day after Veterans Day. A district near Detroit told parents on a Sunday in October that it would be remote on Friday — and then continue every Friday until February. The school “claimed the move would help the district deal with the challenges of enhanced COVID-related cleaning and staff shortages,” per local outlet Michigan Capitol Confidential.  

One school in Florida shut down schools for the whole week of Thanksgiving, citing the fact that they hadn’t used any “hurricane days.” A Utah school district said all of its schools will do remote learning one Friday each month from November until March. A school in Oregon called off in person classes for twenty days because of fights happening at the school.

One possible reason for the closures appears to be related to keeping teachers’ morale high. Since the remote learning style wasn’t widely available before COVID hit, it now appears as if schools are offering this to teachers to prevent them from leaving.

The teachers’ union in Portland, Oregon, is suggesting early-release days for some of its schools after they come back from winter recess. Elizabeth Thiel, the president of the Portland Association of Teachers, said they’re getting an “alarming” amount of teachers asking for assistance in quitting.

“It is far better for our students and families to be able to plan on an inconvenience like that, than it would be for the whole system to stop functioning,” Thiel said.

Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, told The Times, “What you hear from teachers is that it’s been too much,” she said. “And they’re trying the best that they can.”

The closures that took place during COVID and appear to be happening again in some areas have had a negative impact on students.

The New York Times ran a headline earlier this year titled “Does It Hurt Children To Measure Pandemic Learning Loss?” The piece argued that shining a light on the lost learning might “incite a moral panic” and “[paint] an entire generation as broken.”  The data would also reveal that the largest losses were among black, Hispanic, and low income children, information which some educators argue would be damaging if revealed.

Analysis by the National Bureau of Economic Research found “a decline in pass rates from the 2018-19 school year to the 2020-21 school year in all states.” The decline ranged from -31.9 percentage points to -2.3 percentage points. The data suggests there were significant declines in test scores overall during the 2020-21 school year, “and these declines were larger in school districts with less in-person instruction.” 

More research showed that the harm didn’t end after schools reopened, but has built over time. For example, this spring third graders at a low-income school scored 17 percentile points lower in math when contrasted with similar students in 2019. Students in wealthier schools also scored lower than in the past, but not as drastically.

One report from earlier this year showed that kids were, on average, four months behind in reading and five months behind in math. Location and income level was also a factor. Students in lower income households, urban areas fell behind more than kids in higher income households and those who lived in higher income rural communities. The report found that black and Hispanic children were also more negatively affected than their white peers in both reading and math.

As parents struggle to find childcare and personally witness the impact of remote learning on their children, there could be even more pushback on these types of schooling changes.

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[By: Charlotte Pence Bond

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