The data was reviewed and published in the journal Nature Human Behavior.
In October, the National Assessment of Educational Progress Exams revealed the devastating effect the pandemic had on learning.
For eighth-grade students, the average reading score was lower compared to all previous assessment years dating back to 1998.
The decrease was even worse for math and marked the largest ever recorded decline for fourth and eighth-grade students. The average eighth-grade mathematics score decreased by eight points compared to 2019 and was lower than all previous assessment years going back to 2003.
There has been no upward progress in approximately two years, according to the analysis. Even more problematic, the negative consequences hit children from low socio-economic family backgrounds the hardest.
The debate continues over whether shutting down in-person learning was the right move.
“It’s hard to say it’s hard to know what the counterfactual would be like,” said Phyllis Jordan, associate director of Future Ed. “Would more people have died or what would have happened? What I will say is that even in places that opened schools, there were not consistent learning gains.” One thing is for certain: the pandemic had a devastating effect on the mental health of the youth.
“My daughter just fell apart,” said parent Leslie Pollak. “(She was) outgoing, she was very active — everything from academics to sports, and we just don’t know what happened. She started sleeping through the Zoom classes, and then all of a sudden, she stopped going to certain classes.”
Dr. Harris Pastides of the University of South Carolina said stories like Pollak’s are common.
“People who studied this said, ‘Prepare to be virtual, prepare to be hybrid. But don’t close to schools because we’ve learned about the devastating impact on students, learning, their families and teachers.’”
The study comes as President Joe Biden informed Congress this week that he will end the twin national emergencies for addressing COVID-19 on May 11, as most of the world has returned closer to normalcy nearly three years after they were first declared.
The move to end the national emergency and public health emergency declarations would formally restructure the federal coronavirus response to treat the virus as an endemic threat to public health that can be managed through agencies’ normal authorities.
It comes as lawmakers have already ended elements of the emergencies that kept millions of Americans insured during the pandemic. Combined with the drawdown of most federal COVID-19 relief money, it would also shift the development of vaccines and treatments away from the direct management of the federal government.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.