Too many “stakeholders” are treating pandemic education impacts as a public relations crisis rather than an educational disaster.
In The 74 I take a look at the NAEP results. As you may have heard, they’re not good!
In particular, the rising number of students at the “below basic” level – which even hardened combatants about the NAEP achievement levels acknowledge is an insufficient level of learning to succeed outside of school – is staggering and has long term implications.
But I try to look at something else, a predicate to addressing all this. Why are we having so much trouble leveling with parents about what’s going on? It’s as though our educational leaders decided to take their cues from Covid-era public health communications.
This is less Red – Blue than it might seem. The NAEP results don’t lend themselves to easy political narratives, it’s a pretty widespread disaster. So perhaps that’s a chance to reset the conversation? Probably not given the climate. But we have to try. Coming clean with parents is the first step toward a more robust response to ensure we bounce back, ideally stronger. It’s also just the right thing to do. There’s no good argument for the noble lie right now.
The disaster and inequity of pandemic policies is now in clear focus. The state NAEP scores released Monday underscore and quantify just how much of a catastrophe pandemic-era school policy and practice was for students — especially the youngest and those already struggling in school. These data build on and confirm previous evidence we saw through the NAEP as well as results from the ACT and data from vendors such as NWEA and Curriculum Associates. This much converging data is hard to brush away. As the president himself might say, it’s a big ******* deal.
Schools have obfuscated about what learning loss even means. Insufficient attention to helping teachers communicate effectively with families means parents are left confused about reading and math achievement. Some professional development focuses on helping teachers distract attention from objective measures of reading and numeracy. Leading newspapers have misled readers about whether any of this even matters. States like New York and California have dragged their feet on releasing test score data, while in other places, school officials are minimizing the importance of standardized exams.
The overall fecklessness, irresponsibility and almost total attention to politics and public relations rather than kids surprises even cynical observers of the sector. The noise-to-signal ratio is difficult for families — who have a lot on their plate besides this — to sort out.