New York Schools Are Normalizing Post-Covid Low Expectations

As an elected parent leader, I am appalled that the Board of Regents is using gimmicks to hide the learning loss caused by school closures and mask mandates.

New York State Department of Education.
The New York State Education Building at Albany. New York State Department of Education.

As New York schools struggle to recover from damaging Covid shutdowns, the Board of Regents is set to lower standards for what is a “good enough” education in New York. 

After years of learning loss, Empire State educational “experts” appear to have decided the best remedy is to simply wipe the slate clean and accept their own self-inflicted fate. 

As an elected parent leader, I am appalled that the Board of Regents is using gimmicks to hide the learning loss caused by school closures and mask mandates. We need a plan to address the learning loss and hold districts accountable — not an abdication of duty.  

Students aren’t learning — so why bother testing them at all? 

In the district that I represent, 25 percent of students are not proficient in English Language Arts and 30 percent are not proficient in Math. My district covers two-thirds of Manhattan and it is known for being one of the wealthiest and highest-performing school districts in NYC. 

The situation is even worse across the state: a report from Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli shows that younger students in New York State lost more learning than the national average.  

“We’re at this new normal. So for New York we are saying the new baseline is 2022,” the co-chairwoman of the Technical Advisory Committee, Marianne Perie, said at the latest Board of Regents meeting, as she tried to explain how the new proficiency scores will be decided for state tests in grades 3-8.

In short, instead of using the pre-Covid data from 2019 as the basis of comparison, students will now be measured against the lower 2022 numbers. 

We cannot accept the “new normal” of lower expectations — indeed, this “new normal” establishes lower expectations for my youngest son than what I had a few years ago for my oldest child.

How can New York students hope to compete with students from other states that have not given up on them? How can our students compete in the highly competitive global marketplace against students from other countries with much higher academic proficiencies? 

The research is clear. Students suffered the consequences of prolonged school closures and toddler mask mandates. Students in Florida and Texas — and in other countries — reaped the benefits of staying in school. We can see now the price our children are paying. 

It is too late to go back in time and undo this harm. We must work to get our students back on track. Lowering the bar, however, is not the answer. Such a move will only cement the learning loss already suffered — and set these students up for a lifetime of subpar achievement.  

It is imperative that the body responsible for education policy in New York focus its energy on developing a clear plan to collect data on the learning loss and hold school districts accountable in addressing it.  

Instead, our state seems intent on digging the hole deeper. Legislators rejected Governor Hochul’s proposal to dedicate $250 million for high-impact tutoring. Why isn’t the Board of Regents supporting this important proposal that would provide tutoring for New York families who can’t afford it?  

High-impact tutoring is a proven strategy to address learning loss; it was recommended by the federal government at the start of the pandemic and is widely used around the country. Just last month, both Washington, D.C., and New Jersey expanded their high-impact tutoring programs to keep the pace of closing achievement gaps for more students. 

States like Colorado allowed the public a transparent view into the details of its learning loss strategies and associated outcomes at the statewide, district, and school levels. 

New York seems content to let its own students wither while other states remediate the Covid-related learning loss.   

The education commissioner, Betty Rosa, keeps celebrating that New York has distributed more than $14 billion in federal Covid aid funding to schools and districts, yet what are the outcomes for children from all these resources? 

There is little solace to be found when New York spends more money per-pupil than any other state, but scores 46th nationally in fourth-grade math performance

If we are going to move on from the pandemic, we have to right our education system. If we lower the educational expectations of our students now, we condemn them to a lifetime of lowered outcomes. Our families are tired of New York being no. 1 only on per-pupil funding.

The New York Sun

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