What is the primary goal of American education? According to the US Department of Education, it is to “build a solid foundation for learning for all children.”  Notice the absolute word “all” in the statement. At the current time, this goal is not being addressed. The Economic Policy Institute has stated unequivocally:  Research regarding online learning and teaching shows that they are effective only if students have consistent access to the internet and computers and if teachers have received targeted training and supports for online instruction. Because these needed requirements for effectiveness have been largely absent for many, remote education during the pandemic has impeded teaching and learning.

The current hodgepodge of in-person, remote, and hybrid classes is resulting in a further decline in American educational standards. Many students without access to the necessary technology are being left in the educational dust. And even many of those with the technology have little or no guidance or adult supervision. The bar for achievement has, indeed, been set very low. The extrinsic motivation (which is not effective in the first place) of a good grade is missing, as methods of assessment are weak, at best. So what is their intrinsic motivation? They have no choice; collaboration is lacking, and they are alienated from their classmates. Not only do school closures impede students’ learning, but they also greatly affect their mental and emotional health as well. 

According to the CDC statement:Extended school closure is harmful to children.  It can lead to severe learning loss, and the need for in-person instruction is particularly important for students with heightened behavioral needs  The harms attributed to closed schools on the social, emotional, and behavioral health, economic well-being, and academic achievement of children, in both the short- and long-term, are well-known   and significant.  Further, the lack of in-person educational options   disproportionately harms low-income and minority children and those  living with disabilities.  These students are far less likely to have  access to private instruction and care and far more likely to rely on   key school-supported resources like food programs, special Education services, counseling, and after-school programs to meet basic  developmental needs.

An entire generation is being adversely affected by the continued ineffective response to a virus that is not deadly to children and adolescents. Secondary level students may be better prepared for online learning. So, the question remains: Why are so many schools still closed? People encounter risks every day; adults must weigh the risk/reward ratio and determine the best for the children.