Detriments to children’s social, mental and emotional health weren’t considered as the U.S. and other parts of the world plunged into lockdown-mode in early 2020. Only now, years later, are we beginning to see the negative effects play out in the form of historic learning setbacks, falling test scores and developmental delays.
Keeping millions of children away from school and isolated from normal social interactions for periods of weeks, months and years was an unprecedented experiment. As were mask mandates that forced children to cover their faces for entire schooldays — during a time in their lives when observing facial expressions is key to social and emotional development.
In December 2021, a systematic review of peer-reviewed journal articles revealed one precise reason why COVID-19 measures like mask mandates shouldn’t have happened — no one knows how they affect crucial elements of childhood, including psychological development, language development, emotional development, social behavior and school success.1 The data that are coming in, however, are alarming.
‘Nation’s Report Card’ Reveals Historic Learning Setbacks
The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), often referred to as the “nation’s report card,” tests fourth and eighth graders across the U.S. to measure student achievement. It’s usually given every two years between January and March, and tests students in all 50 states as well as 26 of the largest U.S. school districts.2
The results are in from the 2022 NAEP Mathematics Assessment, which was last given in 2019, before the pandemic. The results show a staggering decline in test scores — the largest drop in mathematics scores seen since the initial assessments were given in 1990.3
Mathematics scores declined for fourth and eighth graders in nearly all the states and jurisdictions tested. For fourth graders, the average math score declined by five points and was lower than all assessment years since 2005. Among eighth graders, the average math score decreased by eight points since 2019 and was lower than all previous assessments dating back to 2003.4…