Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said Thursday that the pandemic has had “profound impacts” on the nation’s schoolchildren and called for communities to “raise the bar for our students” in the wake of a new report showing test scores for America’s 9-year-olds fell dramatically in 2020 and 2021.
In a USA Today opinion piece, Cardona highlighted a number of steps the Education Department and schools across the nation are taking to address the challenge, but pushed states and counties to do more, saying “we can’t take our foot off the gas.”
“This data should serve as a further call to action for states, districts and communities to use these funds quickly, effectively and on strategies we know work,” he wrote. “It must take a commitment from all of us to use data responsibly — not to punish or label schools or educators, but to allow local leaders to target resources to communities and schools that need them most.”
The National Center for Education Statistics released data Thursday as a preview of an upcoming National Assessment of Educational Progress report, known as the nation’s report card.
The data showed that during the pandemic’s first two years, reading scores fell 5 percentage points, to the lowest level in 30 years, and math scores fell 7 points, the first decrease in history.
The test scores reveal a stark divide between the nation’s schoolchildren along racial lines. Math scores dropped 5 points for white students but 13 points for Black students.
The pandemic led to vast changes in the country’s schools, including mask-wearing, social distancing guidelines and a new shift to virtual schooling during peak waves of the public health crisis.
At the same time, state and local leaders have also taken steps in some states to limit the teaching of racial issues as well as gender identity and sexuality.
Americans are largely dissatisfied with the nation’s K-12 public education system. A Gallup poll released Thursday shows just 42 percent of Americans approve of the quality of the K-12 schooling, the lowest level in two decades.
The secretary said a “substantial portion” of students behind grade level in at least one school subject in 2021 caught up in time for summer break this year.
He said about half of students were behind grade level in at least one subject in the beginning of the 2021-2022 school year, but that number fell to 36 percent by the end of the school year.
“This progress is a testament to the enduring impacts our educators and school staffs can make on helping our students catch up, both academically and developmentally,” Cardona wrote.
Source: The Hill