The Washington Post: How the Flint water crisis set schoolchildren back

March 13, 2024

By Amudalat Ajasa

School-age children affected by the water crisis in Flint, Mich., nearly a decade ago suffered significant and lasting academic setbacks, according to a study released Wednesday, showing the disaster’s profound impact on a generation of children.

The study, published in Science Advances, found that after the crisis, students faced a substantial decline in math scores, losing the equivalent of five months of learning progress that they hadn’t recovered by 2019, according to Brian Jacob, one of the study’s authors. The learning gap was especially prevalent among younger students in third through fifth grades and those of lower socioeconomic status. There was also an 8 percent increase in the number of students with special needs, especially among school-age boys. But the study notes that there remain many questions about whether it was the lead in the water directly or broader community trauma that contributed to the academic decline.

In the study, researchers analyzed standardized test scores from kindergarten through 12th grade across 10 Michigan districts, looking at student outcomes from 2007 through 2019.

Researchers found negative academic effects in these areas for years to come after the crisis, though they found limited or no effects on reading achievement or daily attendance.

“It’s a substantial reduction in their achievement. It’s a tragedy,” said Jacob, a professor of education policy and economics at the University of Michigan. “It’s a massive case of government failure in one of its basic jobs to help ensure the physical well-being of its citizens.”

Read the full article on the Washington Post

Read the full study on Science Advances