I’m a science teacher with urban HS and MS experience. The learning loss and gap predate the pandemic, it just accelerated it. The roots of our problems are actually easy to recognize:
1) In a bizarre quest for equity, we aren’t allowed to suspend black or brown students because the State says they are suspended too often. The kids know this and thus do whatever they want. They literally run the school. I was hit by a shoe in the hallway this week. I asked the student why she threw it and she replied, “Because I can.”
2) To protect their own jobs, school officials juke the state about academic performance, attendance and graduation rates. Students are not held back for failing a grade. Summer school is academically useless. My 8th grade students are 4-6 years below grade according to their NWEA test scores and my observations. Yet I’m ordered to teach 8th grade curriculum to them. How engaged are students who can’t even read the material? How does it affect their mental health to be humiliated day after day because they lack basic skills to engage the material? For example, none of my 8th graders can read the analog clock on the classroom wall.
These issues can be solved with much smaller student:teacher ratios and truly rigorous standards. Kids can’t be promoted until they have mastered the material. Poor behavior must have consequences.
Raising children without consequences is producing a generation of antisocial young adults, without drive, discipline or knowledge.
It was all obvious — the learning loss, the disengagement from education overall, the depression and anxiety and suicidality due to severe isolation (often summarized as “mental health impacts”), the chronic absenteeism, the drop out rates, the graduating without being able to read, the abuse at home, the loss of community and hope . . . I could go on. And on. And of course, the poorest, most vulnerable children were harmed the most.
But if anyone pointed that out in real time, we were called racists and able-ists and eugenicists. Among many other career-destroying smears.