Student-focused solutions can address pandemic learning losses

By Kathryn Hickok

The New York Times published an editorial November 18 regarding learning losses experienced by K-12 students since the COVID-19 pandemic. The editorial board’s recommendations are predictable: spend more money, combat chronic absenteeism, and increase teacher compensation.

CATO education policy analyst Colleen Hroncich takes a more incisive approach.

“We’ve spent a lot of time and money on the system‐​focused approach,” Hroncich writes. “Let’s try focusing on the kids now….

“Pouring more money into the system and making children spend more time there isn’t what’s needed. It is individual children who are struggling, so they need individual—not system-focused—help….”

One size does not fit all when it comes to education….School choice programs that allow state funding to be used for private schools or home education expenses are spreading. While no state had universal school choice in 2020, 10 states now have universal or nearly universal programs.

“More of the same is not the solution for what ails our education system. All states should move to universal choice so all kids can attend the learning environments that work for them.”

The student-focused approach represented by school choice addresses many of the problems raised by the Times. School choice empowers parents to match their students with the teachers, schools, and learning environments that best keep them engaged on the path to educational success.

Kathryn Hickok is Executive Vice President at Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon’s free market public policy research organization, and Director of Cascade’s Children’s Scholarship Fund-Oregon program.

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