This week, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) released its first full report since 2019 — and it’s just as alarming as we suspected. The report revealed steep declines in reading and math scores among 4th and 8th graders nationwide. States and districts that usually lead the pack are suddenly finding themselves in the bottom percentiles for the very first time. Our most historically underserved student populations appear to be experiencing disproportionate impacts, with scores from low income, Black and Hispanic students showing moderate to significant impacts.
While these results are not surprising, we already are hearing both sides of the aisle assign blame — discourse that does absolutely nothing to address the situation at hand or support students.
“This is not a time for finger pointing — now more than ever it’s important for us to come together in bipartisanship for students and families. This is a time to review the lessons we have learned over the last two and a half years that must guide our actions moving forward, such as the clear need to engage parents and promote transparency when making decisions about our schools and districts,” said The Hunt Institute President and CEO Dr. Javaid Siddiqi.
“Of course, we cannot ignore the data being presented in this report. We knew there would be declines across the board, but seeing them in writing is understandably alarming. Instead of allowing ourselves to be distracted by the discourse around what we could or should have done, our energy must be focused on centering students and charting a path forward — one that ensures that all students, particularly those who have been historically underserved by our education systems, have the necessary supports to thrive.”
- The risk of a widening opportunity gap is top of mind with these results — we can address this by diversifying our educator population and involving communities when defining solutions — steps that have been shown to lead to higher academic outcomes for students of color.
- The pandemic highlighted existing flaws and revealed new ones around how states capture, respond to, and communicate student and educator data. Investing in robust data collection systems will ensure that states and districts can be responsive to student needs, react quickly to future crisis scenarios, and evaluate the efficacy of programs. For this investment to be worthwhile, policymakers must also be trained in how to look at and unpack the data collected — an effort The Hunt Institute has and will continue to support.
- Recovering quickly and efficiently will require innovative and forward-thinking solutions. With two years left to obligate ESSER III dollars, states should leverage the historical levels of funding they are receiving into what we know works: high-dosage tutoring, expanding early literacy, wraparound supports, and other solutions.
- While state agencies may need to balance many competing priorities, they can work with local partners to build their capacity. Local organizations can provide technical assistance and coordinate needed services, ensuring that students are able to focus on what is important — learning.
“If this report is the catalyst that allows us to approach systemic issues with renewed fervor and support, so be it,” Dr. Siddiqi continued. “But these results must be seen as a springboard rather than a crutch. Through targeted policy approaches, we can not only recoup learning loss among current students but also ensure the system we build back is better and stronger than the one we started with for future generations.”