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The Editors

Tell Parents the Truth About Learning Loss

A lack of transparency about where students really stand will only make it harder for them to catch up.

Making up for lost time.

Making up for lost time.

Photographer: Olivier Touron/AFP/Getty Images

By any measure, America’s students are in crisis. According to a survey released this month, nearly half of all schoolchildren started the year below grade level in at least one subject, up from 36% in 2019. The pandemic caused students to lose, on average, half a year’s learning in math, with low-income students falling further behind. Yet when it comes their own kids’ academic progress, too many parents remain in the dark about these challenges.

In a national survey last fall, fewer than one in 10 parents said they were concerned that their child would struggle to make up lost ground, with 43% saying that their kids hadn’t experienced any learning loss at all. Another found that more than 90% of parents think their children are performing at or above grade level in reading and math. In California, most parents say they their child’s academic performance has improved since the pandemic, with 22% reporting it unchanged — despite standardized test results showing broad declines across grade levels.