Biden Admin, Media Blamed Anti-CRT Efforts And ‘Book Banning’ For Learning Losses. Experts Say That’s ‘Nonsense’

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  • As just 13% of eighth-graders met grade-level expectations in U.S. history, Department of Education Secretary Miguel Cardona put the blame for such scores on book bans and censorship in the classroom.
  • The Biden administration, critics and the media’s efforts to blame the country’s learning loss on the culture wars is “nonsense,” education experts told the Daily Caller News Foundation. 
  • “It’s nonsense. Liberal politicians and liberal pedology have been controlling our nation’s classrooms for generations. You can date it back to 1920. They own it, they broke it,” David Randall, the head of the civics alliance for the National Association of Scholars, told the DCNF.

Betsy DeVos and other education experts slammed the Biden administration and the media’s effort to blame the nation’s staggering learning loss on those fighting Critical Race Theory (CRT) and book “banning,” telling the Daily Caller News Foundation it’s “bizarre” and “nonsense.”

In 2022, just 13% of eighth-graders met proficiency in U.S. history while civics test scores recorded their first ever decline, according to a Wednesday report from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, known as the “Nation’s Report Card.” The learning loss stems from the push to focus curriculum on diversity and equity topics rather than teaching students reading and writing, education experts told the DCNF. (RELATED: ‘My Question Is Very Simple’: Biden Education Secretary Refuses To Define What A Woman Is)

“This is what you get when you teach CRT, DEI [Diversity Equity and Inclusion] and the 1619 Project instead of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Gettysburg Address,” Betsy DeVos, former education secretary under President Donald Trump’s administration, told the DCNF. “Two out of three students can’t read proficiently, and staggeringly, nearly nine out of ten aren’t proficient in U.S. history. How can you stare that much failure in the face and advocate for anything short of transformational change? The government-run, union-controlled, one-size-fits-none education system simply isn’t getting the job done.”

To meet grade-level expectations in U.S. history courses, students are expected to remember major turning points, people and ideas in the country’s past, the report showed. In 2022, about 20% of eighth-grade students passed the yearly civics and U.S. history exam.

The plummeting scores are a result of politics in the classroom and Republican efforts to censor what is taught in the classroom, Department of Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said in a Wednesday press release.

“[The Nation’s Report Card data] tells us that now is not the time for politicians to try to extract double-digit cuts to education funding, nor is it the time to limit what students learn in U.S. history and civics classes,” Cardona said. “We need to provide every student with rich opportunities to learn about America’s history and understand the U.S. Constitution and how our system of government works. Banning history books and censoring educators from teaching these important subjects does our students a disservice and will move America in the wrong direction.”

The Nation’s Report Card does not track or list reasons for the plummeting scores, Martin West, an education professor at Harvard University and member of the National Assessment of Educational Progress’s governing board, told The Washington Post. West, however, believes the ongoing “culture war” is a contributing factor.

“That said, I think it’s fair to speculate that ongoing debates over how to teach history may well be getting in the way of actually doing it,” West told the outlet.

Test scores in both U.S. History and civics fell back in line with scores from the 1990s, which is when the scores were first tracked, according to the Nation’s Report Card. Of eighth-graders, one-fifth tested proficient in civics while nearly 31% of eighth-grade civics students failed to meet grade-level expectations.

Reading levels in K-12 schools also fell back in line with test scores previously seen in the 1990s, the largest drop ever recorded, according to September data by the Nation’s Report Card. Since 2019, every state has seen a decline in its math scores, with fourth- and eighth-graders suffering the most significant drops.

Student’s low reading scores have likely contributed to the fall of the nation’s U.S. History and civics scores, Rick Hess, director of education policy studies at American Enterprise Institute, told the DCNF.

“It’s bizarre for anyone to suggest that recent debates in some states over how texts or teachers discuss race or gender would explain a decade-long, national drop in student knowledge and skills,” Hess told the DCNF. “More likely culprits are reading ability, a lack of time devoted to history and civics, and the fact that teachers today report they’re not as concerned as teachers were a decade ago about whether students know historical facts or understand the political system.”

Kerry Sautner, the chief learning officer of the National Constitution Center, told USA Today that students’ scores are plummeting because they are fearful to express their opinons on such lessons that have been subject to debate.

“Students are beginning to disengage from − and become more fearful of expressing their opinions on − history, government and other topics important to civic learning,”

Many students did not receive in-person learning for more than 18 months from the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, despite the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) declaring in-person instruction to be safe in February 2021, Pew Research reported.

But while remote learning is partially to blame for the learning loss, the emphasis on anti-racism initiatives in history curricula following the death of George Floyd in May 2020 is more at fault, Adam Kissel, visiting fellow in higher education reform at the Heritage Foundation, told the DCNF.

“School closures and learning loss have depressed test scores across the board,” Kissel told the DCNF. “Furthermore, after the Black Lives Matter movement became popular in 2020, many teachers probably changed their curriculum and taught less of the basics and more activist topics. States need to return to core knowledge and high-quality resources, not textbooks that teach false history like the 1619 Project and critical race theory.” 

Third grade students at Highland Elementary School work with plastic dividers at Highland Elementary School in Las Cruces, New Mexico on March 4, 2022. - In late January, amid staffing shortages due to COVID-19, New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham called in National Guard soldiers to fill the rolls of substitute teachers in order to avoid shutting down schools and making children return to remote learning. (Photo by Paul Ratje / AFP) (Photo by PAUL RATJE/AFP via Getty Images)

Third grade students at Highland Elementary School work with plastic dividers at Highland Elementary School in Las Cruces, New Mexico on March 4, 2022. (Photo by PAUL RATJE/AFP via Getty Images)

Throughout the country school districts have placed an emphasis on DEI and anti-racism initiatives within their curriculum and daily operations; in Rhode Island, a school district is encouraging its community to report anyone who violates the district’s anti-racism policy. An elite boarding school in Connecticut encourages its faculty to acknowledge their whiteness and pledge to political change.

Since, Republican lawmakers have cracked down on such efforts in the classroom; Republican Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin issued an executive order in January 2022 prohibiting CRT lessons from all state schools. Republican Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt’s administration lowered the accreditation of two public school systems after they were found violating the state’s ban on CRT.

In January, Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration rejected an AP African American Studies course because it contained tenets of CRT and lessons detailing queer theory, which violated the state’s law. Since, the College Board, which creates the AP classes, has agreed to change its curriculum for the course banned by the DeSantis admin.

Rather than the “culture wars,” the Democratic party and the Biden administration is to blame for the nation’s learning loss, David Randall, the head of the civics alliance for the National Association of Scholars, told the DCNF.

“It’s nonsense,” Randall told the DCNF. “Liberal politicians and liberal pedagogy have been controlling our nation’s classrooms for generations. You can date it back to 1920. They own it, they broke it. In addition to the persistent effect of their calamitous policies, what we can add to that is the COVID policies, whereby the public school teacher unions insisted on the shutdown of the schools beyond even what the norm of the country was, that has ruined the education even farther in the last few years.”

“[The anti-CRT laws have had] probably minimal effect in the classroom given how much the teachers and the education administration officials have been resisting them tooth and nail,” Randall continued. “They are trying to blame something which has scarcely begun to exist, which is only in a small proportion of the nation’s classrooms, and they’re doing this to disguise the blame for their own generations-long, and more recently, disastrous policies.”

The Department of Education referred the DCNF to Cardona’s previous statement when asked for comment.

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