CHARLOTTE (QUEEN CITY NEWS) — This week, the North Carolina Board of Education released information, based on state tests, comparing 2018 to 2021 in various categories. One of the graphs focused on letter grades for students.

While not stellar, 2018’s pre-pandemic levels were good and showed students that were expected to do well were doing well or better than expected. However, 2021’s post-pandemic levels showed a sharp decline.

In summary, students who were expected to do well weren’t; and students who weren’t expected to do well were doing significantly worse than forecast.

“You’re going to see this and think ‘students got dumber’ and that’s not what happened,” said Chris Marsicano, a professor at Davidson College.  “They just didn’t learn as much as we expected or projected them to learn in the absence of COVID.”

State officials lay the blame squarely at the pandemic itself, not necessarily the planning or lack thereof, or the people behind the planning.

“We did try to make learning as accessible as possible, be we were learning as well,” said retired educator Kim Biondi.

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Biondi retired after COVID hit and said while everyone in education had a mission, teachers were the ones tasked with carrying it out.

However, the pandemic has exacerbated North Carolina’s teacher shortage, with more educators leaving the profession.

“The young person who replaced me in my classroom is no longer there,” said Biondi. “So, what does that tell you?”

Biondi said the numbers out this week are something she saw in her own school, students needing to be at a certain point, but due to the challenges of the pandemic, just not being there.

While the simple answer could have been to put children back in class, it was not that simple at the beginning of the pandemic.

State officials said it will take 2 to 3 years to get students caught back up to pre-pandemic learning levels, but Biondi said it will be an even bigger task with the current teacher shortage.

“We’re headed for a catastrophe,” she said.