US political establishment seizes on declining test scores to bar remote learning and accelerate attack on public education

Recent results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), a national standardized test conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), showed a decline in scores among age nine students during the pandemic. Preliminary results from NAEP’s long-term trend (LTT) reading and mathematics assessments note that in 2022, average scores dropped five points in reading and seven points in mathematics compared to 2020.

The tests have been seized upon by the Biden administration, the political establishment and the corporate media to cynically blame remote learning during 2020–2021 for “learning loss.”

 Students are lined up outside of the Adams’ campus of Oyster Adams Bilingual School, as they wait to check-in for the first day of school, Monday, Aug. 29, 2022, in Washington DC [AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais]

US Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said the onus for academic decline should be placed squarely on the Trump administration’s “mismanagement of the pandemic.” By this he did not mean Trump’s prioritizing of corporate profit over human life and his embrace of the pseudo-scientific theory of “herd immunity,” ie, the deliberate infection of masses of people. After all, the Biden administration has adopted essentially the same policy, declaring that the population must “learn to live” with COVID-19.

No, Cardona was simply criticizing the temporary shift to remote learning, which was forced on state and local authorities not by Trump, who viciously opposed it, but by the demands and opposition from teachers, students and parents to being herded into dangerous classrooms.

“That’s why President Biden, from Day One of his Administration, pushed so hard to get schools reopened and students back into classrooms,” Cardona declared.

Major school districts have also blamed the preliminary results on remote learning. Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent Alberto Carvalho stated, “as anticipated, the preliminary state assessment results illustrate that there is no substitute for in-person instruction.”

To the extent that standardized testing accurately measures academic achievement, which many educators and experts reject, there are a number of more profound factors contributing to lower scores than remote learning, none of which the Biden administration or the media care to discuss.

First, is the widespread illness of children over the past two years. A nationwide study published in Nature in May estimated that close to 51 million children had been infected, or a staggering 70 percent of US children. Nearly 160,000 have been hospitalized and at least 1,790 have died, according to the CDC. The vast majority of pediatric illness and death occurred under Biden’s watch during the Delta and Omicron waves, when schools were prematurely forced open amid soaring transmission.

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