Was closing schools a mistake?

The sharpest opinions on the debate from around the web

A child learning remotely.
(Image credit: Illustrated | Getty Images)

The National Assessment of Educational Progress this week confirmed that American students fell behind in school when classrooms were shut down after the coronavirus crisis hit in 2020. The report, also known as the Nation's Report Card, showed that math and reading scores dropped significantly among fourth and eighth graders in nearly every state, across demographic groups. The decline in math scores was particularly jarring, with 26 percent of eighth graders scoring as proficient, compared to 34 percent in 2019. The New York Times called the decline "the most definitive indictment yet of the pandemic's impact on millions of schoolchildren."

The most vulnerable students fell farthest behind — many lacked the devices and high-speed internet connections needed to keep up in remote learning environments. "The results in [the] nation's report card are appalling and unacceptable," said Education Secretary Miguel Cardona. "This is a moment of truth for education. How we respond to this will determine not only our recovery, but our nation's standing in the world." The federal government last year invested a record $123 billion, or about $2,400 per student, to help public school students catch up. Given the cost — to taxpayers and to students — was closing schools the right thing to do?

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Harold Maass, The Week US

Harold Maass is a contributing editor at The Week. He has been writing for The Week since the 2001 debut of the U.S. print edition and served as editor of TheWeek.com when it launched in 2008. Harold started his career as a newspaper reporter in South Florida and Haiti. He has previously worked for a variety of news outlets, including The Miami Herald, ABC News and Fox News, and for several years wrote a daily roundup of financial news for The Week and Yahoo Finance.