FGI Forced to Sue Department of Education for Records on Pandemic Learning Loss

Lockdowns pushed by Department’s union allies caused students to fall far behind.

(Washington, DC) – Today, the Functional Government Initiative (FGI) announced a transparency lawsuit against the Department of Education (ED) for withholding records of communications with external organizations regarding the 2022 Nation’s Report Card showing dramatic learning loss.

The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), or “Nation’s Report Card,” congressionally mandated and administered by the department, is the largest nationally representative assessment measuring students’ academic performance. The first national assessments occurred in 1969 and by 1996 were administered every two years.

In October 2022, the Education Department released the first NAEP administered since COVID-19 began. The results were shocking. The report showed a significant learning loss among the 4th and 8th grade students. In math, the average score dropped by 5 points for 4th graders and 8 points for 8th graders. In reading, the average score dropped by 3 points for both 4th and 8th graders. According to these statistics, about a third of 4th and 8th graders cannot even read at the “basic” achievement level. The tests revealed that student performance had fallen to levels not seen since the 1990s.

When the 2022 NAEP was released, American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten said that “results show the pandemic’s grave impact on student achievement.” At least Weingarten acknowledged the problem, though as head of the nation’s second largest teachers’ union, she made no mention of the role she played in keeping schools closed, which exacerbated the learning loss. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona made remarks stating that “the results in today’s Nation’s Report Card are appalling and unacceptable – they are a reminder of the impact this pandemic had on our learners.” He also gave credit to President Biden for leading the nation to nearly 100 percent of schools re-opening while admitting that it took nine months after taking office but neglecting to mention the role of the administration’s union allies in keeping schools closed.

Weingarten and the Department of Education seem to have agreed to respond to the disastrous report with the narrative that long-term school closings were unavoidable and that the resulting learning loss was regrettable but also inevitable. They also implied that schools are now open and, therefore, time to move on. However, the only thing that is avoidable appears to be accountability for failed policies and politicized decision-making.

In February 2023, FGI filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the Education Department for records on communications with external special interest organizations regarding the 2022 NAEP assessments. Almost eight months later, no documents have been produced, thus prompting FGI to file suit.

Peter McGinnis, spokesman for FGI, issued the following statement:

“The COVID-19 school closings were absolutely disastrous for our nation’s children, as the NAEP release makes clear. But, rather than being an unavoidable response, they were a policy failure. The education establishment’s reaction to the pandemic was unscientific, infuriating, and freely chosen. The Education Department and the unions were determined to deflect blame for the disastrous NAEP with their own narrative. Now the Department is obscuring the records of its communication with unions and other special interest groups about the assessments prior to their release. It seems the Education Department has failed educating our students and now the public.”