". . . and having done all . . . stand firm." Eph. 6:13


A Tale of Two Cities: Test Scores and School Closures

November 1, 2022

Here’s a story that should resonate with many parents of school age children.

My husband and I have raised our children in Northern Virginia, and while we have homeschooled and tried our parish’s Catholic school, for the most part, our children attended and graduated from our public school system. The rest of my family lives in the southern part of Virginia, where we have many friends as well. In January of 2021, a friend who lives in the Richmond, Virginia, suburbs called me to report her relief and her children’s delight that their school would finally offer in person learning (remember when we called it “going to school”?) three days a week. Her family was busy making preparations for the children to return to school and for her and her husband to have a more normal work schedule. Her kids were thrilled to be able to see their friends and teachers again. She said that her children’s teachers had done a great job, all things considered, working hard to provide meaningful instruction to students online, but the teachers themselves, too, seemed to welcome a “returning to normal.”

Knowing that our Fairfax County School Board meeting was two days away, and knowing that Fairfax would not, under any circumstances, reopen because of the deranged demands of our teacher’s union and some hysterical parents, I encouraged my friend to manage the expectations of her children. Fairfax would set the standard on whether or not schools could “safely” reopen, and her Richmond area school district was large enough to have a union that would have to “play ball,” I warned. No, she replied, we will definitely open. They had held parent meetings, issued the schedule, and the teachers had prepared the students for return on a date announced. Everyone was expecting to go to school on Monday, she said, so how could they take that all away from the children? Who would be that cruel?

Two days later, our school board met, Fairfax remained closed, and subsequently so did most of the other large school districts in the state.

I’m sorry to say that her county’s teachers’ union fell in line with Fairfax. An emergency meeting in her county was held; new metrics were used to prevent their school system from reopening for “in person learning.” Her hopes, and those of her children and their friends and neighbors were dashed, and Virginia’s children remained isolated from their peers, in “virtual” learning programs online.

A version of this scenario played out in many other states with strict lockdown status. When a national crisis required adults to make difficult decisions, adults in charge of our education system prioritized their own wellbeing and desires over the educational and relational needs of children. Finally, the Fall of 2021 saw most schools re-open nationally. Would all be forgiven and forgotten with this “return to normal?” Were kids as resilient as we were promised, could they bounce back?

It seems not. NAEP scores have recently been released, which reveal the full academic impact of school closures on children’s academic performance. The scores remain in overall decline, with lock down states scoring worse than states which reopened schools quickly. Math scores are lower than reading scores, but on the whole, students are not performing at grade level. Billions in “emergency” COVID relief funds remain unspent. Emphasis on Social Emotional Learning and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion programs, we are told, is necessary to help children understand themselves and the world so they will be able to learn. Gender affirmation, social justice, anti-racist landacknowledgements, and the like seem to enjoy higher priority for school administrators than teaching children reading and math skills.

This election cycle seems to set to be a repeat of the Youngkin-Sears-Miyares victory in 2021 (and New Jersey’s close call), with voters concerns about inflation, cost of living, and the economy driving turnout. Concerns about indoctrination in public schools at the expense of parental rights is also an important factor for parents. Even so, President Biden’s latest message to parents is full support for child sex change therapies, while ads remind voters of some elected officials’ willingness to criminalize parents who balk at “gender affirmative care.”

My wise husband has reminded me for years that “the only poll that matters happens on Election Day.” Voters will send a message November 8, 2022. Whether government officials will heed that message remains to be seen. That’s why it is more important than ever that Christians vote and prayerfully consider running for office. We have resources for you at FRCAction.org/schools. We need Christian teachers, principals, and school board members now more than ever. America is the greatest country in the world and our children deserve the best schools. Please pray for families, for schools, and about what you can do to be involved in putting American education back track for excellence.

Meg Kilgannon is Senior Fellow for Education Studies at Family Research Council.