Two weeks ago, the U.S. Department of Education released the results of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). Although, as Professor Marty West put it wryly on the Fordham Podcast, at this point it perhaps should be renamed the National Assessment of Educational Stagnation and/or Decline.
The grim story is mostly familiar at this point to education wonks: Students in thirty-one states performed worse in eighth grade reading in 2019 than in 2017. The first round of wonk hot-takes is in, and several folks here on Fordham’s Flypaper blog have tried to shine a light on the handful of bright spots in the data (e.g., Mississippi is doing well!).
For my part, I’m less of a glass-one-fiftieth-full kind of guy. I’m more inclined to try to find the worst news buried amid the bad and ring an alarm bell about it.
At the topline, we have seen a story of decline ever since 2013. My fear is that this is not a coincidence. From 2013 onward, the Common Core took firm root in most states and we saw a sea change in school discipline and an apparent explosion of tablets and laptops in the classroom. I’ve grown increasingly concerned that the education reform movement has hurt the students it is trying to help, especially students of color.
Of course, NAEP can’t confirm this hypothesis. It can tell us what is happening but not why.
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