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It’s been 2½ years since Reid Orlando lost his mother to COVID,

and he still feels the sting. His mom, a single parent and ER nurse, caught the virus while helping patients during the pandemic’s deadly first wave, and every new milestone reminds Orlando of her absence: his first job out of college, his brother's high school graduation, even small occasions like Sunday dinners.

“My life will never go back to normal,” said Orlando, who, at 23, stepped up to care for his brother and 80-year-old grandmother. 

Across the country, more than a quarter-million young people like Orlando are navigating the delicate journey of moving forward after losing a primary caregiver to COVID — and even that staggering tally does not fully encapsulate what's driving a huge uptick in child bereavement. Asher Lehrer-Small reports.

Student Mental Health

Historic Rise in Child Bereavement as COVID, Drugs and Guns Claim Parents’ Lives

As of June, more than a quarter-million Americans under 18 had lost a primary caregiver to COVID. Yet that staggering tally does not fully encapsulate the scope of the issue. During the pandemic, child bereavement rates spiked 25%, driven by huge increases in gunshot homicides and accidental drug overdoses. “It wasn't just COVID, we were seeing increases across the board,” the clinical director of Judi’s House, an organization that supports bereaved children, told The 74’s Asher Lehrer-Small. “This trend is not stopping anytime soon.”

Go Deeper:

  • Tragic Toll: The Children Left Behind By 1 Million U.S. COVID Deaths
  • From the 2021 Archive: ‘Their Whole Sky Has Fallen’ — 1 in 450 Youth Have Lost a Parent or Caregiver to COVID


Plenty to Be Thankful For

At The 74, we have much to be thankful for this holiday season, including the support of so many readers who've donated to the cause of independent journalism. We are so grateful.

If you haven't given, please consider the value of The 74's fact-based reporting. We need you to support it. And through December, all donations will be matched, dollar for dollar.



Federal Funds & Philanthropy Can Help Get Chronically Absent Kids Back in School

Like student achievement scores, attendance rates appear unlikely to return to normal without some extra effort and spending. And, as with achievement scores, normal wasn’t that great. About 10% of districts are earmarking part of their federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Refund money explicitly to improve attendance, and many others are investing in initiatives that can bring students back to school and keep them coming. How can districts sustain these programs after the ESSER funds are spent? Contributor Phyllis W. Jordan has some suggestions.



  • Troubling Trend: Analysis — States to ‘Likely See a Doubling’ of Pre-Pandemic Chronic Absenteeism
  • 74 Interview: Seeing the Nuances Behind the Chronic Absenteeism Crisis


The Voters Speak: Post-Election Lessons for America’s Schools

Voters delivered powerful messages on Election Day, not all of them consistent: They want schools to focus on education, not culture wars. Vouchers got a boost in Oklahoma but were rejected in Wisconsin. The red wave never materialized, but neither did a blue one. These post-election crosscurrents will be the topic of the next webinar  sponsored by The 74 and the Progressive Policy Institute’s Reinventing America’s Schools project, featuring Andy Rotherham, a member of the Virginia State School Board and The 74's Board of Directors; journalist and author Anya Kamenetz; Michael Hartney of the Hoover Institute; George Parker, former educator, teachers union president and adviser to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools; and 74 Senior Writer Kevin Mahnken, and moderated by PPI's Tressa Pankovits. The conversation starts tomorrow at 1 p.m. Eastern. Register here.


Educator's View: Teaching Phonics Alone Won’t Solve the Nation's Reading Crisis

A lack of phonics instruction has led to reading difficulties in millions of kids. But as crucial as teaching students how to sound out words is to improving literacy, says contributor Matt Bardin, it won’t solve the nation's reading crisis. As a middle and high school English teacher, he has seen the gap between decoding and comprehension; when reading instruction begins and ends with phonics, students are left without the skills needed to grasp complex texts. Here, a few solutions.


Read More:

  • King & Davis: Commentary — Science of Reading Gives Kids the Best Chance to Close the Literacy Gap
  • Watch: Education Experts Talk the Science of Reading, Pandemic Learning Loss and the Need to Close Literacy Gaps in a Post-COVID World
  • Teacher’s View: How the Science of Reading Helped Me Make the Most of Limited Time With My Students & Adapt Lessons to Meet Their Needs


Why Going Back to 'Normal' Won't Work for Students of Color

Recent NAEP scores show unprecedented losses in math and reading skills since the pandemic disrupted schooling for millions of children. Educators and policymakers are eager to reverse these trends and catch students back up. But this renewed concern seems to overlook a crucial fact: Even before the pandemic, many schools were failing to adequately serve children of color. In our latest partnership with The Conversation, racial equity scholar Adriana Villavicencio looks beyond the test results at four ways schools can better support the success and well-being of students of color.




  • El-Mekki: Commentary — Pandemic Learning Loss Is Rooted in the Racial Chasm Between Educators and Students of Color. Only Teacher Diversity and a Strong Black Teacher Pipeline Can Fix It


Second-Highest Youth Midterm Voter Turnout in 3 Decades

Youth voters contributed to better-than-expected results for Democrats this election cycle, turning out at a historic rate. Some 27% of 18- to 29-year-olds cast ballots, more than in any recent midterm election except 2018. Rallying for issues like abortion rights, gun control and climate change, their votes broke overwhelmingly for Democrats, helping the party to, as one youth activist noted, “defy political gravity” —  and earning a “thank you” from President Joe Biden.

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