Oster Study Finds Learning Loss Far Greater in Districts that Went Fully Remote

Kevin Mahnken:

What are the consequences of closing virtually every American school and shifting to online education for months at a time?

It’s a question that education experts have been asking since the emergence of COVID-19, and one whose answers are gradually becoming clearer. With federal sources reporting that 99 percent of students have now returned to classrooms, newly available data are showing how students were affected by spending long stretches of the last two school years at home. And the signs are not good.

Perhaps the most disturbing news yet was found in a working paper released last month by the National Bureau of Economic Research, which found that state test scores dropped significantly in both reading and math during the pandemic. In a discovery that will reopen questions about the wisdom of keeping schools closed, economist Emily Oster and her co-authors found that learning loss was far worse in districts that kept classes fully remote, and that declines in reading scores were greater in districts serving predominantly poor and non-white students.

Oster, a Brown University professor and popular author, has won both adulation and criticism in the COVID era as an advocate for school reopenings. One study she co-authored, examining the spread of coronavirus in 250 Massachusetts districts last winter, helped persuade officials at the Centers for Disease Control to reduce the recommended social distancing requirement in schools from six feet to three.

The data clearly indicate that being able to read is not a requirement for graduation at (Madison) East, especially if you are black or Hispanic”

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“An emphasis on adult employment”

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