Democratic politicians, liberal pundits, teachers’ unions, and even some school boards denounced and fought the Florida Republican over what the Florida Education Association called in July 2020 the “reckless and unsafe reopening” of schools that August.
But parents and others who care about children should be grateful – to the governor.
A new study by Harvard University vindicates DeSantis and shows that the so-called experts were wrong yet again.
The study, by Harvard’s Center for Education Policy Research, looked at the effects of remote and “hybrid” learning on 2.1 million children in grades 3-8 spread across 49 states and the District of Columbia.
The gist is that remote learning was a failure.
“We find that remote instruction was a primary driver of widening achievement gaps,” researchers wrote, especially when viewed through the lenses of race and poverty.
And the effect, the study noted, “It seems that the shifts to remote or hybrid instruction during 2020-21 had profound consequences for student achievement. In districts that went remote, achievement growth was lower for all subgroups, but especially for students attending high-poverty schools. In areas that remained in person, there were still modest losses in achievement, but there was no widening of gaps between high and low-poverty schools in math (and less widening in reading).”
The study, released last week, determined “that within school districts that were remote for most of 2020-21, high-poverty schools lost a half-year of achievement growth, roughly twice as much as low-poverty schools in the same districts,” the center noted in a press release.
“We estimate that high-poverty districts that went remote in 2020-21 will need to spend nearly all of their federal aid on academic recovery to help students recover from pandemic-related achievement losses.”
But you know who didn’t go “remote” at that time? Gov. DeSantis.
Florida that year was among the states – along with places like Texas, Louisiana, Utah, Arkansas, Idaho, and Wyoming – that spent the least amount of time going remote. Low poverty schools in those states were remote on average for one week, while “high poverty” schools went that route for about three weeks on average.
In contrast, the main remote learners – primarily liberal states like California, Illinois, New Jersey, Oregon, Washington, Virginia, and Maryland – kept kids out of school between 15 weeks (low poverty) and 24 weeks (high poverty).
As The Harvard Gazette reported, “high-poverty schools both spent more weeks in remote instruction during 2020-21 and suffered large achievement losses.
Districts that remained largely in-person, however, lost relatively little ground. Experts predict the results will foreshadow a widening in measures of the nation’s racial and economic achievement gap.”
Thomas Kane, the center’s faculty director and one of the researchers, told the Gazette, “It is the dramatic growth in educational inequity in those districts that remained remote that should worry us.
Kane noted that the education achievement gap between whites and minorities had been closing for 30 years – until the pandemic. Because of remote learning, that trend was reversed.
“Interestingly,” Kane said, “gaps in math achievement by race and school poverty did not widen in school districts in states such as Texas and Florida and elsewhere that remained largely in-person.”
“Where schools remained in-person, gaps did not widen. Where schools shifted to remote learning, gaps widened sharply. Shifting to remote instruction was like turning a switch on a critical piece of our social infrastructure that we had taken for granted.”
Because Gov. DeSantis insisted that schools stay open, poorer kids were able to stay on track educationally, while those in blue states faded into the abyss.