Further Studies Show ‘Alarming’ Decline in Children’s Reading Skills During Pandemic

Multiple studies have continued to confirm a significant downward trend in the reading comprehension skills of most American public school students following the coronavirus pandemic.

The New York Post reports that several more academic studies have confirmed what was previously reported by the curriculum and assessment group Amplify: That public school students, particularly in the lower grades, saw massive drops in their reading skills during and after the numerous lockdown measures were imposed on schools during the initial coronavirus outbreak.

In Virginia, the University of Virginia conducted a study which found that 35 percent of public school students scored below their expected levels in the Fall of 2021, reaching a 20-year low; the rate of below-benchmark scores was 30.8 percent in 2020, and just 21.3 percent in 2019.

“Especially alarming,” the study declares, “overall K-2 Fall 2021 scores indicate the highest percentage of students scoring below benchmark at grade-level entry ever observed at the fall assessment. Further, Fall 2021 rates of below-benchmark scores among first and second grade students were the highest documented in PALS history in those grades at fall assessment.”

Another study published in November by Curriculum Associates found that the youngest elementary school students “have not yet caught up to pre-pandemic on-grade level performance.” The study found that roughly 33 percent of second-graders are not prepared for reading comprehension at grade-level, an increase of 9 percent from before the pandemic. At the third-grade level, 38 percent of students are underprepared, a 7-point increase from pre-pandemic levels.

In Boston, roughly 60 percent of students at schools with higher levels of poor performance have been categorized as “at high risk for low reading levels.”

“We’re in new territory,” said Dr. Tiffany Hogan, Director of the Speech and Language Literacy Lab at Boston’s MGH Institute of Health Professions. Hogan said that the long-term implications of the falling rates of reading comprehension would be “pretty dramatic,” even after the pandemic ends.

The findings have confirmed what many warned would happen at the initial onset of the pandemic, when state and local governments demanded that schools be completely shut down to ostensibly slow the spread of the coronavirus.

The long transition back to normality – from closing schools for the remainder of the 2019-2020 academic year, to “virtual” or “remote” learning from 2020-2021, to the implementation of “hybrid” learning, combining both remote and in-person schooling in 2021-2022 – has been criticized by parents and others as ineffective and only serving to severely stunt students’ academic growth. Teachers’ unions have also been blamed for taking advantage of the pandemic to essentially hold students hostage during reopening negotiations, in exchange for increased benefits and various demands that had little or nothing to do with the pandemic.

About Eric Lendrum

Eric Lendrum graduated from the University of California, Santa Barbara, where he was the Secretary of the College Republicans and the founding chairman of the school’s Young Americans for Freedom chapter. He has interned for Young America’s Foundation, the Heritage Foundation, and the White House, and has worked for numerous campaigns including the 2018 re-election of Congressman Devin Nunes (CA-22). He is currently a co-host of The Right Take podcast.

Photo: Sally Anscombe/Getty Images

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