President’s Message- New Year’s Resolution for Parents of School Aged ChildrenWalt Williams

This article appeared in the Edwardsville Intelligencer, on January 5, 2023

I was startled to learn that students could potentially shave $70,000 off the lifetime earnings if they were in school during the pandemic, according to a new study by a Stanford economist.

The sobering forecast is based on an analysis of the sharp declines in the scores of eighth-graders on national math tests taken between 2019 and 2022.

If the learning losses aren’t recovered, K-12 students on average will grow into less educated, lower-skilled and less productive adults and will earn 5.6% less over the course of their lives than students educated just before the pandemic, said Eric A. Hanushek, a Stanford University economist who specializes in education. He said the losses could total $28 trillion over the rest of this century.

Dr. Hanushek further speculates that the economic costs of the learning losses will swamp business cycle losses. To put this in perspective less discretionary income equates to less purchasing power.  Discretionary income includes money spent on luxury items, vacations, and nonessential goods and services. Because discretionary income is the first to shrink amid a job loss or pay reduction, businesses that sell discretionary goods tend to suffer the most during economic downturns and recessions.

Scores on the 2022 National Assessment of Educational Progress, known as the Nation’s Report Card, fell across the board. Dr. Hanushek’s analysis is based on eighth grade math test scores that fell an average of eight points from 2019, before the pandemic. That is the largest drop ever recorded on the 32-year-old exam and translates to between 0.6 and 0.8 years of missed school, according to Dr. Hanushek.

Unfortunately, pandemic learning loss has hit minority students the hardest.  According to McKinsey & Company, Students of color were about three to five months behind in learning; white students were about one to three months behind.

The researchers were quick to point out if the learning losses aren’t recovered.   I asked Dr. Patrick Shelton-District 7 Superintendent his thoughts on what could be done to reverse this trend.  Dr. Shelton provided the following advice:

  1. First, parents should be quick to reinforce the skills that were not as widely needed during the pandemic – the ‘soft’ skills that often times were not needed during the pandemic. Things like understanding the perspective of others, working collaboratively, and finding common ground with others were not needed during the pandemic, but are essential skills in students being successful in a working environment. In many ways, students lost the understanding of learning, and especially persevering through tasks that are complicated.
  2. That leads to the second thing – be aware of the social/emotional impact that the pandemic has had on students, their levels of maturity, and their ability to navigate the internet; and finally,
  3. Parents need to be aware of any ‘holes’ in the student’s learning as a result of the pandemic and partner with educators to ensure a plan is available to fill those holes.  The more time that goes by, the more we see a larger impact from the social-emotional skills than any missed content.

I ask parents to make a New Year’s Resolution, to make a conscious effort to work of their child’s soft skills and connect with their educators to create a plan of work to fill in the learning gaps.  The ball in in your corner, your move.

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