A Stanford University study showed that adolescent’s brains have been impacted as a result of anxiety and stress due to lockdowns and school closures. Now, in addition to declining mental health and decreased academic performance, some children are experiencing thinning of the cortex and accelerated brain maturation. These are not positive developments, as accelerated brain maturation is related to mental illness and potentially long-term chronic health issues. Children who experience significant trauma and adverse childhood events are at even higher risk for these outcomes. It is not yet clear whether these are permanent or temporary changes.
In addition to the Stanford study, the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA) released the 2022 results, and they are not encouraging or promising. Overall, there was minimal improvement from 2021 to 2022 in math scores, but there was actually a decrease in overall English scores in terms of the percentage of students scoring at a proficient or above level.
Additionally, the percentage of students who are scoring at a proficient or above level continues to be very low. Only 54.6 percent of students scored proficient or above in English, and only 34.4 percent of students scored proficient or above in math. The figures are even more abysmal for historically underperforming children who are typically low-income and/or minority students.
With the mental, physical, academic, and now neurological impacts on children, what are public schools doing to address the problems? Unfortunately, far too many across the region and the country are focused on the wrong issues. We need school boards who will hire superintendents who are focused on academic excellence for every child and not political agendas that are not related to student outcomes.
Today’s podcast addresses these topics.