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NAEP Shows Declines in Math + Reading, National Literacy Shift, and Stefanowski's Extremist Rhetoric

National Test Results Show Declines in Math and Reading

On Thursday, the National Center for Education Statistics released new data comparing math and reading achievement among 9-year-olds to pre-pandemic performance. The data–which come from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) Long-Term Trend Assessment–show the largest average score decline in reading since 1990 and the first ever score decline in math. Although lower-performing students were already experiencing declines prior to the pandemic, students at all levels (including both middle- and higher-performing 9-year olds) are moving backward since 2020–which underscores the impact of the pandemic on learning for all students. But gaps did widen, as well. The New York Times’ coverage observes that while students in the 90th percentile showed only a modest drop of 3 points in math, students in the bottom 10th percentile saw a drop of 12 points. In a press statement, US Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona pointed to "the prior Administration's mismanagement of the pandemic" and observed that President Biden has pushed hard for in-person learning since taking office.

Broadly speaking, the results mirror the statewide assessment data recently released in Connecticut, which likewise illustrated a significant pandemic slide. (See last week's “Wednesday Weekly” on the results of the Smarter Balanced Assessment here.) NAEP results for grades 4 and 8, both across the nation and broken out into individual states, will be released later this fall.

National Shift to Science of Reading

Subscribers to this newsletter are already quite familiar with Connecticut’s “Right to Read'' legislation, which was passed last year and is in the early stages of implementation in Connecticut. The bill language explicitly requires all districts to implement evidence-based literacy curricula, based on the science of reading—thereby formally shifting Connecticut public schools away from the debunked “balanced literacy” model. Nationwide, there has also been a perceptible shift towards the science of reading of late. This week alone, the topic was covered in both a New York Times guest essay by Emily Hanford ("The most important thing schools can do is teach children how to read. If you can read, you can learn anything..."), and The New Yorker ("It’s startling to realize that panels of experts had to argue the case that teaching children to read involves careful attention to the relationships between sounds and letters..."). Next week, the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading will keep the conversation going, hosting a panel on the progress that states have made in implementing this important policy initiative. The event, held on September 13 from 3-4:30pm, will feature:

  • Connecticut's own Education Commissioner, Charlene Russell-Tucker;

  • Patrick Lyons from the National Conference of State Legislatures;

  • Kymyona Burk from ExcelinEd;

  • Todd Collins from the California Reading Coalition;

  • Emily Hanford from American Public Media; and

  • Tanji Reed Marshall from The Education Trust.

That sounds like quite a line up. We’ll definitely be tuning in! Click here to register, too!

Stefanowski Embraces Extremist Rhetoric

Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Stefanowski–down in the polls, losing staff, and suing the Independent Party after being passed over for their nom–seems to be clinging to an ultra conservative and gaslighting education agenda calling for a “parental bill of rights.” Rolled out publicly yesterday, the proposals espouse ideas like banning transgender athletes from competing, allowing parents to decide on when schools teach sex ed, ending all classroom mask mandates, and walking back mandatory vaccination policies. According to CT News Junkie's coverage, Governor Lamont's campaign has responded that Stefanowski's announcement is "just another page out of the extremist playbook." He also urged that politicians stay away from using transgender young people as "campaign fodder," according to the CT Mirror.

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