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COVID-19 Pandemic Triggers Fall in US Graduation Rates, Decline in Learning Among School Students

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Published: February 4, 2022
Many American states saw a fall in graduation rates due to the pandemic. (Image: pixabay / CC0 1.0)

The COVID-19 pandemic that has raged for the past two years has disrupted the normal life of people all over the world. In the United States, graduation rates have dropped in the first full school year of the pandemic according to data analyzed by Chalkbeat.

The analysis looked at education numbers from 26 states for 2021. It found that 20 of the 26 states saw a decline in graduation rates, something which can affect the future educated labor pool of the country. 

In states like North Dakota, Oregon, and Illinois, there was a two percent drop in graduation rates. In states like Maine, Indiana, West Virginia, South Dakota, and Nevada, there was at least a one percent decline. States like Colorado, Kansas, and Georgia saw a less than one percent fall in graduation rates.

“We do have to be concerned that grad rates are down and that some number of kids that earned a diploma, they’ve learned less than prior years… What we’re going to have to learn in the future is, how great is the concern?” Robert Balfanz, a professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Education and director of a research center focused on high school graduation, told AP News.

In addition to falling graduation rates, the pandemic also affected the education of school students as well. In January, the Michigan State University’s Education Policy Innovation Collaboration released a 350-page study which revealed that the shift to online education due to the pandemic resulted in the majority of K-12 students in the state of Michigan learning less. There are an estimated 1.4 million such students in Michigan. The demographic most harmed due to the adoption of digital education was kids classified as economically “disadvantaged.”

According to the report, districts that offered in-person instruction to students all year round fared better than those that adopted remote education. Students from such in-person education districts scored higher average test scores. Many pre-existing achievement gaps became wider during the pandemic. Test score gaps between white students and Latino or black students grew further, as did gaps between general education students and special education students.

“Specifically, mathematics growth among students in the pandemic cohort was roughly two-tenths of a standard deviation behind students in the pre-pandemic cohort, while ELA growth trailed by a bit less than a tenth of a standard deviation. While not large, these effect sizes are quite substantial and suggest that Michigan students made slower gains during the pandemic than in the years prior,” the report said.

In an interview with The Epoch Times, Neil Kohler, the Superintendent of Brown City Schools, stated that though a small number of seniors usually do not graduate every year, the rate has “gotten worse” during the COVID-19 pandemic. The viral outbreak has resulted in emotional and social change among middle school and high school students.

“Our older kids are worried about the impact of the pandemic on college and the job market. They are also stressed because their home life has been disrupted as their families try to cope with all the mandates… These young people needed to hang out with their friends. This was taken away. They needed sports as a stress release. That was taken away… Our high school students are not getting the experiences they expected. Despite our best efforts, every kid has missed out on stuff they should have gotten,” Kohler said.