COVID Brief: COVID’s ‘Sweeping Toll On Kids’ By The Numbers

COVID Brief: COVID’s ‘Sweeping Toll on Kids’ by the Numbers

Receive stories like these directly in your email inbox. Sign up for Newsletter.

This Week’s Most Important News

Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images

COVID-19’s Impact on Children Reveals Significant Learning Setbacks

According to the Associated Press, the typical elementary school student in the United States experienced a loss of over half a year in math education and almost a quarter of a year in reading during the pandemic. Stanford University education professor Sean Reardon, in collaboration with Harvard economist Thomas Kane, compiled and analyzed the data. Reardon states, "When there’s a major crisis, the individuals who suffer the most are usually the ones with the least resources." Reardon and Kane developed a map that displays the number of years of learning lost by the average student in each district since 2019. The Education Recovery Scorecard project compared results from the "nation’s report card" test with local standardized test scores from 29 states and Washington, D.C. This project also revealed that rural districts performed better in math but worse in reading compared to their urban and suburban counterparts.

The Big Three – November 4, 2022


NAEP Results: Current Findings

The results from the 2022 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), commonly known as the Nation’s Report Card, were released in October. These scores indicate the largest decline ever recorded in 4th and 8th grade math. There is a significant link between the math performance of big city districts’ 4th graders and school closures. The financial toll of the math losses revealed by NAEP could amount to nearly $1 trillion. Amidst the pandemic, Catholic schools have made progress, as evidenced by Kathleen Porter-Magee in The Wall Street Journal. She states, "In the fall of 2020, over 92% of Catholic schools across the country reopened for in-person learning, compared to 43% of traditional public schools and 34% of charter schools." The NAEP data highlights the importance of school reopening for educational progress. Currently, the gap between Catholic schools and public schools is so significant that if all Catholic schools in the United States were considered a state, their 1.6 million students would rank first in the nation for NAEP reading and math tests for 4th and 8th graders.

Reactions: Andrew Rotherham states, "Parents deserve to know the truth about learning loss, and NAEP proves it." Robin Lake adds, "Teachers vary greatly in their confidence level to address skills gaps, as shown by the NAEP survey." The U.S. Institute of Education Sciences advises, "What we need to know and what we need to acknowledge that we don’t know" regarding the NAEP release.

CDC Presents Updated Information on COVID-19 and Vaccine Safety for Children and Pregnancy

Katelyn Jetelina reports the most significant update from the CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) was the unanimous decision to include COVID-19 in the pediatric vaccine schedule. This means that the CDC has added the COVID-19 vaccine to the Vaccines for Children program, ensuring that children without health insurance can still receive the vaccine for free even after the federal government’s vaccine purchasing funds are depleted. This is crucial for achieving health equity. The data shows no increased risk of myocarditis following mRNA vaccination in children aged 6 months to 5 years. Furthermore, the risk of myocarditis is rare in adolescent and young adult males in the first week after receiving the mRNA vaccine. The risk of adverse cardiac outcomes is 1.8 to 5.6 times higher after contracting SARS-CoV-2 compared to after receiving the mRNA COVID-19 vaccine among males aged 12 to 17 years.

Gary Coronado/Los Angeles Times/Getty Images

College Life for the Pandemic Generation Has Been Challenging

Federal Updates

Department of Education: Secretary Miguel Cardona, who has received the COVID-19 vaccine and booster shot, has tested positive for the virus. The Education Department stated that he is experiencing mild symptoms.

White House: President Biden will be announcing additional measures to assist Americans in receiving their free and updated COVID-19 vaccines this autumn. A fact sheet has been released providing details on these efforts.

Department of Education: A new report titled "Supporting Learning Acceleration with American Rescue Plan Funds" has been published. This report emphasizes six strategies, including opportunities for learning acceleration, high-quality tutoring, and high-quality assessments.

City & State News

California: There is growing concern about the increasing number of absences among San Francisco students. Chronic absenteeism in the San Francisco Unified School District has more than doubled from pre-pandemic levels. Preliminary data for the 2021-22 school year shows that the rate has risen from 14% to 28%. A student is considered chronically absent when they miss 10% of the school year, which amounts to 18 days.

Washington, D.C.: The D.C. Council has voted to delay the implementation of the coronavirus vaccine mandate for students aged 12 and older until the next school year. However, some members of the council have expressed reservations about this decision.

Illinois: An analysis carried out by Chalkbeat and the Better Government Association has revealed that numerous high-poverty school districts across the state have utilized only a small portion of their relief funds. This is concerning as these districts serve students who have been particularly affected by the pandemic.

Iowa: A federal court has ruled that the state must allow school districts to require masks in certain cases. This decision comes amid ongoing debates about mask mandates in schools.

Kentucky: Governor Andy Beshear has announced the Education First Plan, which aims to address the poor test scores resulting from the COVID-19 era. The plan includes funding for a 5% pay raise for school staff, universal pre-K programs, textbooks, technology, and training programs.

Maryland: In Montgomery County, parents are expressing frustration and students are being left stranded due to a shortage of bus drivers. This has had a significant impact on the transportation of students to and from school.

COVID-19 Research

COVID-19 Linked to Increased Risk of Fatal Blood Clots, Study Finds

A new study conducted by scientists at Queen Mary University of London has found that individuals with COVID-19, even if the symptoms are mild, have a higher risk of developing dangerous blood clots. These blood clots, known as venous thromboembolisms, can travel to the heart, lungs, and other parts of the body. The study, which included nearly 54,000 people, also revealed that non-hospitalized COVID-19 patients were more than 10 times more likely to die compared to those who did not contract the disease.

Considering the Bivalent Booster: Is It Worth Getting?

Emily Oster provides insights on the bivalent booster and answers three key questions: the value of getting the bivalent booster for those who are already fully vaccinated, the best time to receive the booster during pregnancy, and any new information regarding vaccines for children under the age of 5.

Omicron BA.2 Subvariant Appears to Pose Less Severe Risk

A study suggests that the Omicron BA.2 subvariant of SARS-CoV-2 carries a significantly lower risk of death compared to the Delta variant and the original Omicron strain (B.1.1.529).


School Closures Have Been Ineffective

Derek Thompson argues in The Atlantic that the latest National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) study does not provide clear evidence that school closures were the main cause of declining academic achievement. However, other studies, including one by economists, including Emily Oster, indicate a stronger connection between school closures and learning loss. Thompson suggests that the disproportionate support for school closures by Democrats may have been a mistake that has widened achievement gaps and set back students’ education in math.

Ending the Failure Epidemic in American Schools

A discussion on how to address the widespread failure within the American education system is presented. The article highlights the need for comprehensive solutions to improve student outcomes and bridge the achievement gap.

Schools across the country received a substantial amount of funding last year, totaling $122 billion, to facilitate their reopening. However, a large portion of this funding has not yet been utilized.

The urgency for these funds was evident, as $81 billion was released within two weeks of the plan being enacted into law, even before the Education Department had reviewed and approved each state’s spending plan.

Despite having access to these funds, a Washington Post analysis of data collected by Edunomics, an education finance group at Georgetown University, revealed that most school systems spent less than 15% of the federal funding, known as ESSER III, during the 2021-2022 school year.

Further examination by the Post found that approximately half of the 211 districts studied, where students are believed to be significantly behind, spent 5% or less of their ESSER III funds the previous school year.

It is important to note that many districts are still utilizing previous waves of federal funding, totaling $67.5 billion, which were released during the Trump administration.

On a different note, there was a bit of commotion at last weekend’s Tennessee vs. Kentucky football game, resulting in the need to call in security. Interestingly, some spectators initially mistook one individual involved in the incident for actor David Harbour from the popular TV show ‘Stranger Things’.

For more news on COVID policies and education, you can subscribe to John Bailey’s daily briefing via Substack. It is worth mentioning that John Bailey serves as an adviser to the Walton Family Foundation, which provides financial support to .

To receive stories like these directly in your inbox, sign up for Newsletter.


  • ernestfarley

    Ernest is a 26-year-old education blogger and teacher who writes about a variety of topics related to teaching and learning. He has a passion for helping others learn and grow, and believes that education should be accessible to everyone. Ernest is a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin, and he has taught high school students in the United States, Mexico, and Chile.