News Story

Report in Medical Journal: For K-5, 'Little Reason To Believe Virtual Learning' Effective

Report finds teachers union’s preferred COVID response will shorten children’s lives

While the Michigan Education Association has pressed to keep school buildings closed, one study suggests that suspending in-person instruction could be more deadly than keeping classrooms open.

The Journal of the American Medical Association published a report this month showing that school closures in the U.S. may be leading to a decrease in children’s life expectancy.

The findings “suggest that the attempt to save lives by closing schools may not have resulted in a net savings when considering the potential harms associated with this intervention.”

The JAMA article stated, “There is little reason to believe that virtual learning environments can be effective for primary school–aged children,” those between kindergarten and fifth grade.

The authors state, “We believe that restoring access to in-person primary school education should be an immediate national priority, even while the country awaits a vaccine.”

But Michigan’s largest teachers union continues to press for keeping schools closed.

“Safety must come first,” MEA President Paula Herbart wrote in a Nov. 18 op-ed. “That means pausing in-person learning at all levels while cases are skyrocketing, and delaying decisions to transition to greater levels of in-person learning until infection rates are under control.”

Other research has documented the negative effects of stopping face-to-face instruction.

Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) performed a study of lost learning in 19 states, including Michigan. It found that the school shutdown from March through June cost children the equivalent of up to 232 days of learning in math and 183 days in reading.

Recovering the learning lost over that time could take years, according to CREDO.

The World Bank warned in a June report that as many as 24 million students worldwide may drop out of school altogether due to the impact of lockdowns on family incomes.

Another World Bank report estimated school closures could cost this generation of students $10 trillion in lifetime earnings, worldwide.

In Michigan, the decision whether to teach remotely or allow students to attend classes in person has been made on a district-by-district basis. School districts in Detroit and Ann Arbor, for example, have not allowed in-school teaching. On Nov. 15, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services ordered all high schools in the state closed due to the rise in COVID-19 cases.

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.