The COVID-19 pandemic has caused significant disruptions in the education of American children, with many schools implementing hybrid models or transitioning to fully online learning. Despite these efforts, recent data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) reveals a concerning trend: two decades of progress in reading and math scores have been undone. The Common Sense Institute of Arizona conducted a study on learning loss in Arizona and found that it not only affects students’ knowledge and learning but also has negative implications for economic growth and human prosperity. The study estimates that learning loss in Arizona will result in a loss of up to $5.8 billion in economic output over the next decade, along with 18,000 fewer high school graduates and 32,000 fewer college graduates by 2032.
The consequences of learning loss extend beyond individual students; they have ripple effects on the state as a whole. Education plays a vital role in various aspects of a person’s life, including employment, income level, and likelihood of criminal activity. Those with a bachelor’s degree experience lower unemployment rates and higher median household incomes compared to those with only a high school diploma. In Arizona, the report predicts that learning loss could lead to an increase of at least 1,500 violent crimes by 2032, costing the state between $38.1 million and $175.1 million annually, with cumulative losses totaling $456 million to $2.1 billion over the next 12 years.
Despite these alarming projections, the report’s authors highlight that learning loss doesn’t have to be permanent. The federal government has allocated significant funds to help schools address the impact of the pandemic, with Arizona public schools receiving over $4.5 billion in relief. The report suggests that if schools, parents, and policymakers work together to address and reverse these trends, the estimated impacts can be minimized. This situation could serve as a catalyst for enacting reforms and addressing long-standing issues within our education system.