U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona was in St. Louis Wednesday as part of the Biden administration’s “Back to School Bus Tour 2023: Raise the Bar” event.
But critics told The Lion that the tour was meant to cover-up for the mistakes that show Missouri public schools under-perform their peers nationally.
Ostensibly, the tour was created to “celebrate” back to school season, with stops by Cardona in Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Wisconsin and Minnesota.
Another purpose is the “doubling down on accelerating student learning and raising the bar in education,” said the Department of Education press release.
It’s a bar that needed to be raised, said critics, even before Cardona’s union allies set back education by decades by imposing unnecessary COVID-19 lockdowns in schools.
“We should celebrate recovery efforts in making up for lost ground,” James Shuls, associate professor of educational leadership and policy studies at the University of Missouri St. Louis, told The Lion. “It’s a good and laudable goal. But what changed in the last few years?”
Shuls says that the slow and steady progress that student test scores made pre-pandemic were okay, but nothing very revolutionary.
But the pandemic lockdowns wiped out that slow progress, he said. Post-pandemic, Shuls thinks we will see the same plodding progress.
“But the idea that we are upgrading our data or systems or revolutionizing our curriculum is false,” he added. “If we don’t do something different, we aren’t going to make any progress.”
Missouri had some of the most troubled school districts in the nation, even before the COVID-19-imposed lockdowns took their toll, according to the Missouri Independent.
“You’ve got some kids two or three grade levels behind where we would have expected them to be if not for everything that’s happened over the past four years,” Collin Hitt, executive director of the Policy Research in Missouri Education Center at Saint Louis University, told the Independent about St. Louis schools.
The bus tour comes even as a new book demonstrates that President Joe Biden scrapped his plans to reopen the nation’s public schools, in order to appease the teachers’ unions after taking office in 2021.
In the book, The Last Politician, author Franklin Foer said that after meeting with American Federation of Teachers boss, Randi Weingarten, Biden acceded to the union demands to keep schools shut down.
Biden reportedly did so, in part, so that he could avoid the embarrassment of a teachers’ strike.
Missouri has witnessed one of the more dramatic learning losses from the pandemic lockdowns imposed by unions among the states.
Overall, Missouri school districts’ standardized test scores have dropped from 90% in 2018 to 65% in 2022.
St. Louis has plunged from 78% to 31% proficient under the Missouri Assessment Program.
According to data released in March, 20% of Missouri schools could lose accreditation by 2024 if test scores don’t improve, reported the St. Louis Post Dispatch.