“We need to be really clear that the magnitude of the declines that we're seeing relative to a typical year, they're striking.”
That’s Karyn Lewis of NWEA, an organization looking at how the pandemic is impacting our children’s education. They found: Nationally, 3rd-9th graders are learning, but they’re not learning as much as the school years before COVID. Math and reading scores declined.
Gaps are even more prominent for historically underserved students: low-income, Black, Latinx and disabled students.
“This is not something that we're going to be able to step back into the classroom and fall 2021 and expect to be resolved in two to three months," Lewis says. "I think we have a multi-year road ahead of us to be able to recover and get back to that place where we want kids to be.”
The learning lag is caused by multiple factors: teachers being thrust to teach online without proper training, lack of access to technology, and more virtual classes, which experts say — without proper structure — aren’t as good as in-person learning.
In Crystal Lake, Illinois far from the hustle of big city, the Waltons talk about what it’s like to go to school during the pandemic.
"It's not easy,” says Julio Walton.
“It was hard in general, you know," says Lestat Walton. "Doing Zoom meetings, not fully understanding the teachers, not having direct learning.”
Fifteen-year-old Lestat ended up failing his freshman year."I'm not happy about it," he says. "But, you know, I have to go with it."
Walton decided to enroll his son in a private school which he says will be in person.
"And even though we have to pay, we know our child's future. And his education is very important to us."
During the pandemic, students around the country have failed courses at alarming rates. 40% of Houston high school students got at least one F in the Fall 2020.
In Chicago, WBEZ reported that in low-income city schools, 1 in every 5 grades given to students in math and English was an F.
Some experts say using federal funding from the infrastructure plan could help pay for broadband technology and in person or virtual tutoring to help students catch up.
Lestat says he’s not giving up."I'm just ready for a new experience. ... You know, move forward."