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University of Nebraska Medical Center

What the Data Says About Pandemic School Closures, Four Years Later

New York Times The more time students spent in remote instruction, the further they fell behind. And, experts say, extended closures did little to stop the spread of Covid.

Four years ago this month, schools nationwide began to shut down, igniting one of the most polarizing and partisan debates of the pandemic.

Some schools, often in Republican-led states and rural areas, reopened by fall 2020. Others, typically in large cities and states led by Democrats, would not fully reopen for another year.

A variety of data — about children’s academic outcomes and about the spread of Covid-19 — has accumulated in the time since. Today, there is broad acknowledgment among many public health and education experts that extended school closures did not significantly stop the spread of Covid, while the academic harms for children have been large and long-lasting. While poverty and other factors also played a role, remote learning was a key driver of academic declines during the pandemic, research shows — a finding that held true across income levels.

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