This week on “The Learning Curve,” Gerard and Cara talk with Dr. Eric Hanushek, the Paul and Jean Hanna Senior Fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. They discuss his research, cited by The Wall Street Journal, on learning loss due to the pandemic, especially among poor, minority, and rural students, and its impact on skills and earnings. Dr. Hanushek has projected that school closures will result in $25-$30 trillion of lost economic output in today’s dollars over the next century, and a 6-to-9 percent reduction in lifetime household income. He shares with listeners how he arrived at these estimates, their wider financial implications for America’s competitiveness, and how we can address it. They review the realities of K-12 education before COVID-19, with flat and declining NAEP reading and math scores over the last decade and persistent achievement gaps. Given that troubling trend, he recommends more effective use of our teachers’ specific talents and offering more individualized instruction to address variations in student preparation. He offers suggestions for how best to direct the influx of federal stimulus funds to school districts, and thoughts on the relative success of many charter and private schools in pivoting to ensure high-quality remote learning and in-class instruction.

Stories of the Week: School budgets have not suffered nearly as much as predicted due to the pandemic – in fact, some state revenues have even slightly grown thanks to federal relief funds and higher than planned sales tax collections. In Education Next, Christensen Institute cofounder Michael Horn laments school districts’ timid response” to remote learning, and opportunities to engage students in active learning and other innovative practices.