Parents cast blame for 'devastating' Nation's Report Card in wake of pandemic: 'Very bad decisions'

Reading scores dropped by the largest margin in more than 30 years, the Education Department reported

New test results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress revealed devastating conclusions that 9-year-olds fell drastically behind in math and reading since 2020, and many frustrated parents blame forces behind the pandemic-related school lockdowns.

The drastic academic declines hit almost all races and income levels. In math, Black students lost 13 points, compared with five points among White students. Nine-year-old's reading scores dropped by the largest margin in more than 30 years..

Already low-performing students were hit hardest.  

"In 2022, reading and mathematics scores for students at all five selected percentile levels declined compared to 2020," the Education Department reported. "In both subjects, scores for lower-performing age 9 students declined more than scores for higher-performing students compared to 2020." 

Los Angeles, California June 23, 2021: Teacher Dorene Scala teaches third grade during summer school at Hooper Avenue School on June 23, 2021.  (Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

Los Angeles, California June 23, 2021: Teacher Dorene Scala teaches third grade during summer school at Hooper Avenue School on June 23, 2021.  (Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images) (Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

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Several parents, activists, and politicians reacted, saying COVID-19-related school lockdowns can account for the regression and agreeing that teachers unions were the biggest culprit.

"Our system harmed kids by making very bad decisions during the emergency," Defense of Freedom Institute’s Jim Blew told Fox News Digital. "There’s a lot of blame to go around here. What I’m probably most worried about is how the labor unions that represent teachers and elections….they’re trying to rewrite history here. They’re going to claim it was COVID that somehow did this, which is not the case. It was very bad decision-making in response to COVID that has led to this."

"These statistics confirm what American parents have known for two years – virtual schooling was an utter disaster not only for our children’s mental health, but for their academic performance as well," Parents Defending Education President Nicole Neily said. "Any adult who’s suffered through a Zoom conference call understands why putting 20+ children on a Zoom for 7 hours per day was ineffective – and initiatives like ‘asynchronous’ learning which broke classes into smaller groups also failed, because far too many students were incapable of self-directed learning."

"This is what happens when you put politics over the education of kids," Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., tweeted in response to the news.

"Democrats made school closure policies to appease big labor unions and now our nation’s kids are paying the price," Scott added. "This is devastating and wrong. I’ll fight to make sure it never happens again."

Many others agreed, underscoring that the stark drop in math and reading wasn't due to the pandemic itself, but pandemic-related policies.

"The NAEP scores are reflective of a government school system that has long forgotten the fundamental needs of children," former Fairfax County special education teacher Debra Tisler told Fox Digital. "It is costing children their natural rights to a healthy physical and cognitive development. Withholding effective and core instruction is damage that will last a child’s lifetime. We must hold the system accountable." 

Ashley Jacobs of Parents Unite sounded off on the education system but regretted that parents lack "legitimate alternatives."

"I’m not sure what is more discouraging, the devastating effects that school closures had on the most vulnerable students, or the fact that anyone, especially all the geniuses with PhDs in education, is surprised by this latest data," Jacobs told Fox News Digital. "From the very beginning of the pandemic parents have been screaming at the top of their lungs for their children to be in school. The ‘system’ has failed the children by caring more about the people running the schools than the children they purport to serve."

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Ellen Phillips virtually teaches a second grade class for students who are either at home or in a separate classroom as in-person learning resumes with restrictions in place to prevent the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at Rover Elementary School in Tempe, Arizona, U.S., August 17, 2020. REUTERS/Cheney Orr

Ellen Phillips virtually teaches a second grade class for students who are either at home or in a separate classroom as in-person learning resumes with restrictions in place to prevent the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at Rover Elementary School in Tempe, Arizona, U.S., August 17, 2020. REUTERS/Cheney Orr (REUTERS/Cheney Orr)

"This isn’t the ‘pandemic’s effect,’" the Defense of Freedom Institute's Angela Morabito tweeted. "This is the teachers unions’ effect."

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Morabito asked in a follow-up tweet if American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten would "care to comment." Weingarten was blasted by parents throughout the pandemic after her union was found to have slow-walked the reopening of schools.

Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, speaks before a crowd of striking educators at Capital High School in Charleston, West Virginia, U.S., February, 19 2019. REUTERS/Lexi Browning

Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, speaks before a crowd of striking educators at Capital High School in Charleston, West Virginia, U.S., February, 19 2019. REUTERS/Lexi Browning ( REUTERS/Lexi Browning)

The AFT and the National Education Association, the two largest teachers unions in the U.S., received a copy of the guidance for a return to in-person learning before the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released it to the public, emails revealed.

The correspondence, obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request by the conservative watchdog Americans for Public Trust and provided to The New York Post, found the union offering suggestions to the CDC before the agency stopped a full re-opening of in-person classrooms. The CDC appeared to use the unions' suggestions word-for-word in more than one instance in the final text of the CDC document.

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School lockdowns were also found to have resulted in an increase in mental health issues among young people. Seventy-six percent of public schools reported an increase in concerns from staff regarding their students' depression, anxiety and trauma since the coronavirus pandemic began, according to data collected between April 12 and April 25 by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) within the U.S. Department of Education's Institute of Education Sciences (IES). 

Mom and host of "The Quisha King Show" podcast Quisha King added one more figure to the list of individuals and entities on who she'd cast blame: Dr. Anthony Fauci. Fauci and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were accused of dividing and confusing Americans during the pandemic with seemingly contradictory guidelines, including, but not limited to the wearing of masks. 

"How are we going to make up for this learning loss?" King asked. "Parents who cannot pull their children from public schools will have to provide additional education when they get home in order to get their children up to speed. If nothing is done, how can these children ever be ready for the next phases of their lives? Fauci, the CDC and the teachers unions are responsible for this debacle and American children deserve an explanation!"