Stories and Grievances: Special Education
The State of the American Student: Fall 2022: A Guide To Pandemic Recovery and Reinvention
The Center on Reinventing Public Education (CRPE) has collected and synthesized data over the course of the pandemic on diverse needs and solutions. It outlines the contours of the crisis American students faced during the Covid-19 pandemic and begins to chart a path to recovery and reinvention for all students—which includes the essential work of building a new and better approach to public education that ensures an educational crisis of this magnitude cannot happen again.
The State of the American Student - REPORT 2022
Overview: Challenges and opportunities
The pandemic was a wrecking ball for U.S. public education, bringing months of school closures, frantic moves to remote instruction, and trauma and isolation. Kids may be back at school after three disrupted school years, but a return to classrooms has not brought a return to normal. The kids are not all right. The Covid-19 pandemic upended business as usual in public education, with devastating consequences for students’ learning and emotional well-being. The state of American students is still coming into focus, but we know the disruptions exacted a greater toll on the students whom schools struggled to serve effectively before the pandemic. The effects were most deleterious where campuses stayed closed longer. The typical American student lost several months’ worth of learning in language arts and more in mathematics. Students suffered crushing increases in anxiety and depression. Hundreds of thousands lost loved ones. Many were forced to mourn in isolation. Students who were poorly served before the pandemic were profoundly left behind during it, including many of those with disabilities who were cut off from essential services critical not only to learning but to daily life, as well. This deeply traumatic period threatens to reverberate for decades, robbing a generation of its potential, exacerbating existing inequities, and undermining the strength of the economy.
At the same time, during the pandemic, vital building blocks began falling into place that could help make seemingly far-off visions of educational transformation a reality. Freed from the routines of a rigid system, some parents, communities, and educators created their own solutions. They found new ways to tailor learning experiences around students, rather than forcing students to fit environments that were never designed for their needs. They discovered learning can happen any time and anywhere. They discovered a wealth of learning opportunities in their communities and troves of untapped talent. These were exceptions to an otherwise miserable rule—but important exceptions to inform the future. This report draws on data the Center on Reinventing Public Education (CRPE) has collected and synthesized over the course of the pandemic. It outlines the contours of the crisis American students faced during the pandemic and begins to chart a path to recovery and restitution for all students— which includes the essential work of building a new and better approach to public education that ensures an educational crisis of this magnitude cannot happen again. Here is what we know about the profile of the American student in September 2022.
The average student is suffering. All students have suffered as a result of the pandemic. For some, that suffering was in small but meaningful things, such as increased social isolation and lost opportunities to celebrate milestones, participate in music and sports, or develop friendships. For others, the pandemic experience was one of deep and potentially long-lasting traumatic events. The academic, social, and mental-health needs are real, they are measurable, and they must be addressed quickly in order to avoid long-term consequences to individual students, to the future workforce, and to the economy. Yet that average masks dire inequity and wide variation of impact. Every student experienced the pandemic differently, and thus, there is tremendous variation from student to student, with certain populations—namely, Black, Hispanic, and low-income students, as well as other vulnerable populations—suffering the most severe impacts. While many students are catching up to prepandemic levels, many are not. This “K-shaped recovery” is leading to widening achievement gaps. But the disparities extend beyond race and income. At the pace of recovery we are seeing today, too many students of all races and income levels are sure to graduate in this and coming years without the skills and knowledge needed for college and career. For both the average and most negatively affected students, the situation could be significantly worse than the early data suggest. What we know at this point is incomplete. Although the data and stories we have to date are enough to warrant immediate action, there are serious holes in our understanding of how the pandemic has affected various groups of students, especially those who are typically most likely to fall through the cracks in the American education system. It’s also the case that the evidence we have to date may understate inequitable impacts or underestimate the long-term effects on students.
The harms students experienced during this pandemic can be traced to a rigid and inequitable system that put adults, not students, first.
Students and families were cut off from essential support, offered radically diminished learning opportunities, and left to their own devices to support learning. Too often, politics, not student needs, drove decision-making, and students with the most complex needs suffered the most, as they always have. Certain pandemic discoveries offer a path toward a better way. While all students suffered in some way, many thrived outside of the traditional school and classroom setting. Parents and teachers, too, discovered or rediscovered new ways to connect and engage with young people. Whether in informal pandemic pods, via virtual IEP meetings, or through new connections between schools and members of the community, it became clear that a more equitable, joyful, and individualized education system is both necessary and possible. We must act quickly, but we must also act differently. The pandemic has revealed a U.S. education system that was unprepared to deal with uncertainty, to meet diverse student needs, to respond quickly in a crisis, to overcome adult-centered political dynamics, or to marshall strong leadership on behalf of student interests.
This pandemic was no one’s fault, but the response was. The kids aren’t all right now, but many weren’t all right before. As we look toward recovery and rebuilding, we must be clear-eyed about what this generation of students is owed, and we must commit to rebuilding in a way that ensures the system is more resilient and prepared for future crises, that builds on positive developments, and that delivers on the potential of future generations of students. Doing so will require more than tutoring programs and other school-based interventions. It will require an ambitious national vision and goals for rebuilding, as well as a commitment to tracking progress toward attaining that vision. It will require bold and inspiring leadership to build new constituencies for change across the education, health care, business, faith, and civic communities. This is the first in a series of annual reports CRPE will produce. It provides an initial account of the damage done and debts owed to students, a roadmap for organizing research around the most pressing questions, and a call to act on what the data tell us. We hope every state and community will produce similar accounts for recovery and renewal and begin to define ambitious goals for recovery. The road to recovery can lead us somewhere new. In five years, we hope to report that out of the ashes of the Covid-19 pandemic, American public education emerged transformed: more resilient, individualized, equitable, and joyful.
Student achievement gaps and the pandemic: A new review of evidence from 2021–2022
This report begins the second round of an updated series of papers that aim to provide a definitive account of the best available evidence on how the Covid-19 pandemic has affected America’s students.
The Center on Reinventing Public Education compiled hundreds of studies and convened panels of education research experts to interpret the data. Three initial reports released in 2021 assessed what we knew to date about the pandemic’s effects on students’ academic progress, its effects on their mental health and social-emotional well-being, and its impact on students with disabilities. This report is an update to the 2021 report on student academics.
In 2022 as in 2021, we aim to present a coherent baseline of what we know, don’t know, and need to know at this stage of the pandemic – and the beginning of a recovery from the pandemic. These reports are designed to help system leaders, community leaders, policymakers, researchers, philanthropies, the media, and others to define ambitious goals and clear metrics that ensure our education system meets every student’s needs over the coming years.
How has the pandemic affected students with disabilities? An update on the evidence: Fall 2022
COVID-19, Special Education
This report is the second installment of an updated set of papers that assess the best available evidence on how the Covid-19 pandemic has affected America’s students.
The Center on Reinventing Public Education has compiled hundreds of studies and convened multiple panels of education experts to interpret the data. Three initial reports released in 2021 assessed what we knew to date about the pandemic’s effects on students’ academic progress, its effects on their mental health and social-emotional well-being, and its impact on students with disabilities.
In 2022, we released an updated report about the status of student achievement. This report updates how students with disabilities are faring. But, we still know very little about their academic and social progress. Less than a third of rigorous analyses on the pandemic’s impact on students disaggregated outcomes for students with disabilities. And questions around compensatory services and eligibility for special-needs services, as well as the sheer number of underqualified educators working with these students, is challenging efforts to accelerate academic support. This report was led by the Center for Learning Equity, which works with education leaders to help students with disabilities receive high-quality learning opportunities.
In all, the 2021 and 2022 reports explore what we know, don’t know, and need to know at this stage of the pandemic. They’re designed to help system leaders, community leaders, policymakers, researchers and philanthropists define ambitious goals and clear metrics that ensure our education system meets every student’s needs in the coming years. Information gathered for these reports also informed our inaugural State of the American Student report in 2022, which offers a roadmap for academic recovery efforts at the national, state and local level.
How Much Have Students Missed Academically Because of the Pandemic? A Review of the Evidence to Date
This report is part of a series that aims to provide a definitive account of the best available evidence on how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected America’s students.
The Center on Reinventing Public Education compiled hundreds of studies and convened panels of experts to interpret what the data show. Three initial reports assess what we know to date about the pandemic’s effects on students’ academic progress, its effects on their mental health and social-emotional well-being, and its impact on students with disabilities. We will update these assessments and add more topics over the coming year as new data become available.
We aim to present a coherent baseline of what we know, don’t know, and need to know at this stage of the pandemic. These reports are designed to help system leaders, community leaders, policymakers, researchers, philanthropies, the media, and others to define ambitious goals and clear metrics that ensure our education system meets every student’s needs over the coming years.
The series of papers will culminate in the release of CRPE’s first annual Profile of the American Student. The report will provide a rigorous and nuanced assessment of 1) how extensive student needs and inequities are across a variety of dimensions, 2) how student needs vary across different dimensions and what that implies for policy and practice, and 3) what promising solutions and innovations are emerging to meet students’ needs.
In future years, these reports will track progress toward repaying every student the educational opportunities they are owed after this traumatic and disruptive period. Our goal is to provide an ongoing assessment of student needs and a look forward toward restitution and recovery.
Betsy Combier, Editor
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