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Post-pandemic learning loss affecting WA students

New data is giving parents and educators a snapshot of the learning loss Washington students have faced post-pandemic.

The 2024 ‘Kids Count’ Report serves as a performance indicator for America’s schools. For nearly 20 years, the group has worked to collect data from state agencies and create an annual report.

The most recent Kid’s Count report shows Washington state ranked 14th for Overall Child well-being and 26th for Education.

“I think the greenest flag is the fact that our ranking is rising, relative to other states,” says education expert, Stephan Blanford. He heads ‘Children’s Alliance’ in Washington. But adds, “There are many red flags.”

The report shows a growing number of Washington students are failing to meet proficiency standards for reading and math.

“That’s going to have a huge impact on kids’ ability to earn living wage jobs, to take care of their themselves and their families,” says Dr. Blanford.

The most recent report uses 2022 numbers. It shows that 66% of Washington fourth grade students are not proficient in reading. That number sat at 65% in 2019.

Seventy-two percent of Washington eighth grade students were reported as ‘not proficient in math’. That number was at 60% in 2019.

“There was distance learning. We’re still seeing the impact of it today,” says one White Center mom.

“Everyone’s worried. They want the best education for their kids,” says a White Center grandfather and dad.

Dr. Blanford believes school budget concerns, teacher burnout, and interrupted learning during COVID are all contributors to educational decline.

But Dr. Blanford notes, even with the drop in reading and math proficiency, Washington students remain above the national average. He tells KIRO 7, one of the biggest takeaways from the Kids Count Data is for states to invest early in students, before they fall behind.

“We get caught up in these narratives of this heroic teacher who’s willing to bring kids up to standard,” says Dr. Blanford. “The reality is not that. It’s unfortunate, but the reality is the kid who starts behind stays behind.”

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