Up & Coming Weekly

November 08, 2022

Up and Coming Weekly is a weekly publication in Fayetteville, NC and Fort Bragg, NC area offering local news, views, arts, entertainment and community event and business information.

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WWW.UPANDCOMINGWEEKLY.COM NOVEMBER 9 - 15, 2022 UCW 5 OPINION Test scores show learning loss for NC students by JOHN HOOD In 2019, 28% of North Carolina eighth-graders lacked even basic reading skills and 29% lacked basic skills in math. Only about a third were proficient in these core subjects. Regardless of region, party or ideol- ogy, no one was satisfied with the 2019 results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), the gold standard in independent evalu- ation of student learning. We all knew that without higher levels of reading and math proficiency, North Caro- lina's economy would be smaller, our families poorer, and our communi- ties weaker. Now that the 2022 NAEP scores are out, we know something else: our task has gotten much harder. According to the latest estimates, the share of North Carolina eighth- graders who lack basic skills expanded to 34% in reading and 39% in math. Proficiency rates dropped into the mid-20s. When discussing trends in test scores, we often focus on learn- ing gaps by race, ethnicity and family income, but it's important to recog- nize that declines weren't confined to disadvantaged children or those already struggling. In 2019, 11% of our eighth-graders demonstrated advanced skills in math. In 2022, that rate tumbled to 6%. Not surprisingly, Republicans and conservatives who faulted Gov. Roy Cooper and other policy makers for keeping public schools closed too long during the COVID-19 pandemic seized on the NAEP scores as support- ing evidence. Also not surprisingly, the Biden administration and other Democrats immediately spun the results differently, pointing out (cor- rectly) that many places where schools reopened quickly had large test-score declines, as well. Critics of long-term school closures have the better argument, however. According to separate analyses of the data by Brown University profes- sor Emily Oster, omas Willburn of the online news outlet Chalkbeat, and Harvard professor Martin West (who also serves on NAEP's govern- ing board), the extent to which states provided face-to-face rather than online instruction was, indeed, related to the size of their test-score declines — although the correlations were in some cases rather modest. North Carolina and many other states kept their public schools closed far longer than was justified by any fair-minded evaluation of the risks (both medical and educational). at being said, even if they'd been reopened quicker, the initial shut- downs and the pandemic's ongoing disruptions of economic and family life would have hurt the performance of our students, anyway. In other words, Cooper and like- minded officials in other states definitely made the wrong call. But relitigating the issue isn't going to fix the present problem. Keep in mind that we don't have NAEP scores for 2020 or 2021. It's likely the learning loss was gigan- tic during those years, and perhaps bounced back a bit in 2022. at's the pattern we can see in the state's own annual testing program: 51% of our students scored at "grade-level proficiency" on state exams in 2022, up from a disastrous 45% in 2021 but still well below the 59% levels of 2017, 2018 and 2019. What now? Democrats think the best way to improve education is to spend vastly more tax dollars on public schools, including across-the- board pay raises for teachers and the employment of more instructional and non-instructional personnel. Republicans think the best approach is to give parents more choices, foster more competition among schools to make them more cost-effective, and reform the way we train, hire, evalu- ate and compensate in order to attract and retain more-effective teachers. You'll hear a lot about these ideas over the coming months. e stakes are huge, as our abysmal NAEP results laid bare. JOHN HOOD, Board Member, John Locke Foundation. COMMENTS? Editor@upandcomingweekly.com. 910-484-6200 FTCC Corporate & Continuing Education ENTER YOUR NEW SEASON WITH COLLEGE & CAREER READINESS TRAINING Adult High School ASVAB Prep English as a Second Language GED®/HISET® Classes are available on FTCC's Fayetteville Campus, the Education Center, and LEEM (Law Enforcement Emergency Management Training Center) in Spring Lake, and other locations throughout Cumberland County. Call: (910) 678-8498 www.faytechcc.edu/continuing-education

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