You can’t say we didn’t warn you.

In 2020 and 2021, parents across the United States said repeatedly and passionately that keeping schools closed because of the pandemic would hurt student achievement.  Now, the results are in – and they’re not good.

The National Center for Education Statistics recently released its assessment of reading and math scores for America’s 9-year-old students. This year, average scores fell 5 points in reading and 7 points in math compared with 2020. It’s the largest decline in reading scores in three decades and the first drop in math ever recorded.

It didn’t have to be this way.

When COVID-19 began

Even if, in the first weeks of the pandemic, school administrators felt obligated to close classroom doors in spring 2020, improved understanding of the coronavirus – including the fact that COVID-19 disproportionately endangers senior citizens rather than school age children – meant that most schools could have found a way to reopen safely by the fall.

Coming: state-by-state breakdowns of student test scores

In its analysis, the Department of Education said the NCES results “cannot be used to establish a cause-and-effect relationship between (school) characteristics or (educational) experiences and student achievement.” But the release of state-by-state breakdowns of student test scores in the coming months will tell the tale.

If students in states that predominantly kept schools closed and locked down – like California – suffered greater learning losses than students in states like Florida that quickly reopened their schools, it would speak volumes regarding the damage that lockdowns inflicted on educational achievement.