by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Shortly after the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) testing results showed dramatic learning loss by American youth during the coronavirus pandemic, American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten attempted to grant herself absolution for the lengthy Covid lockdowns of schools. But a series of new studies demonstrate exactly how much those lockdowns could cost the next generation of American students.
The studies use both current NAEP data and studies from prior years to show that the learning loss associated with the pandemic, if not remedied, could lead to approximately $900 billion in lower earnings for public school students. Worse yet, the effects will likely hit low-income families hardest — a perfect example of how seemingly well-intentioned leftist policies have the effect of keeping poor families poor.
One of the papers by the Center for Education Policy Research used data from the Census Bureau and prior rounds of NAEP test scores taken between 1990 and 2019 to analyze the connection between test results and long-term life outcomes. Because different states’ scores on the NAEP test for eighth-grade math rose by different amounts over the past several decades, the researchers could analyze how those differences affected cohorts of students as they went through life.
The researchers examined factors such as changes in income, the likelihood of enrolling in college, teen motherhood, and incarceration. Perhaps unsurprisingly, higher test scores were associated with higher income and college enrollment, along with lower rates of teen motherhood and incarceration.
Using the results they obtained from analyzing pre-pandemic data, the researchers then extrapolated what would happen if the learning losses from the pandemic era do not get reversed. They calculated the learning loss would lead to a 1.6 percent decline in lifetime earnings.