There is a narrative out there suggesting that COVID-19 lockdowns in 2020 hurt American school children, creating a “lost generation” of Americans who are perhaps ill-equipped to bear the burdens of American democracy that will one day be placed on their shoulders. Is this narrative true?
Today at The New York Times David Wallace-Wells notes that American students faced a “modest setback” as a result of the pandemic. But that is not the entire story.
Here is a taste of his piece, “American Students Outperformed the Rest of the World During the Pandemic“:
Now, for the first time, we have good international data and can compare how American students performed to those in peer countries that, in many cases, made different choices about whether and when to close schools and whether and when to open them.
This data comes from the Program for International Student Assessment, coordinated by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in almost 80 countries typically every three years — a long-running, unimpeachable, nearly global standardized test measure of student achievement among the world’s 15-year-olds in math, reading and science.
And what it shows is quite eye-opening. American students improved their standing among their international peers in all three areas during the pandemic, the data says. Some countries did better than the United States, and the American results do show some areas of concern. But U.S. school policies do not seem to have pushed American kids into their own academic black hole. In fact, Americans did better in relation to their peers in the aftermath of school closures than they did before the pandemic.
The performance looks even stronger once you get into the weeds a bit. In reading, the average U.S. score dropped just one point from 505 in 2018 to just 504 in 2022. Across the rest of the O.E.C.D., the average loss was 11 times as large. In Germany, which looked early in the pandemic to have mounted an enviable good-government response, the average reading score fell 18 points; in Britain, the country most often compared with the United States, it fell 10 points. In Iceland, which had, by many metrics, the best pandemic performance in Europe, it fell 38 points. In Sweden, the darling of mitigation skeptics, it fell 19 points.
Read the entire piece here.