You’ve probably watched a race sometime, and like me you’ve been momentarily confused as two runners head to a seeming photo finish, but one competitor is a lap behind.
That’s basically a snapshot of a press conference on Thursday held by the Department of Education to announce new data that on the one hand shows a pretty stunning drop in student achievement in English, mathematics and science, but also shows that students are resuming their expected rate of learning, or maybe slightly bettering it.
The department wasn’t burying the data, despite what I’d call their overly rosy take on the numbers. On Thursday, they simply emphasized relative pace over place.
So, yes, students are now back in the running – but in the case of math achievement, for example, grades 6 to 8 are an entire lap and a half (more than an entire school year) behind.
To their credit, the Department of Education provided these numbers to the press (embargoed) on Wednesday to ensure that we had time to dig through the ins and outs of the data before the press conference. That’s good government. No complaints.
This was no surprise announcement. We had been waiting for these numbers since the spring. So staff at CT Examiner had time to work through the data separately on Wednesday and together on Thursday before we drove over to the press conference in Vernon.
The camera crews were there, and a handful of reporters, but few serious questions about the data.
It was our Friday morning headline story.
But shockingly – to me a least – except for a below-the-fold story in the Hartford Courant, and coverage by CT Public, it’s been crickets otherwise. Take a look.
Now, here’s the rub…
We’ve never had an honest conversation in Connecticut about COVID and schooling and mental health, and excess deaths, in part because one side won’t accept that COVID is a thing, and the other side, well, they won’t admit that the pandemic lockdowns have had profound negative effects on the public’s wellbeing. It’s either all cost or all benefit.
You would hope that the press would do better than that. But for the most part they haven’t.
While the press has rightly reported on vaccines and deaths, for the most part they haven’t been willing to admit the costs of policies that have set our young people back, have spurred a significant rise in deaths from untreated and undiagnosed conditions, and have taken a serious mental toll.
And because there is no honest public conversation about the costs and benefits – and there are both – it appears more than likely that we are supposed to accept that missing lap or so, as the new normal.