What we see in this data snapshot, while disappointing, is not surprising: Our students are still bearing the brunt of two decades of austerity, competition and test-based fixation that have failed to prioritize the needs of students, including the 90 percent of kids who attend public schools. Twenty-one states still spend less on public education than before the Great Recession, and during this decade of disinvestment there has been little to no change in either the math or reading performance of our highest-risk students.
What the survey data doesn’t tell us in detail is why. Almost half of America’s kids have trauma, and they’re going to school in classrooms without nurses and counselors. For years, we’ve been advocating that children need comprehensive social and emotional supports so they’re able to engage in meaningful learning in safe and welcoming environments. It’s vital to meet kids where they are and to do what evidence shows works for improving student well-being and achievement.
Since the enactment of the Every Student Succeeds Act just four years ago, some states and districts have started stepping up to the plate to use evidence-based strategies that are tailored to their communities, and we’re already seeing incremental gains in high school graduation rates. So why stop now, when our work is just starting to pay off? Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos ignores the real issues that plague our classrooms and student achievement, presumably because they disrupt her political agenda to siphon public money into private hands and expand private school vouchers and for-profit school ventures. But the evidence on achievement in voucher programs has not found statistically positive gains for students using vouchers, and most large-scale studies have found that students actually saw relative learning losses. DeVos has been putting her thumb on the scale against public schools and public education since Day One—cutting the very programs that help kids the most.
So, our answer to the question of how we help students succeed shouldn’t be to go back to the competition-and-austerity era, or to pull the rug from the strategies that we know are starting to work and have potential to grow. We have to push forward and continue fighting for the investments that prioritize children’s well-being; provide wider access to high-quality instruction and learning experiences; and engage parents, communities, educators and students in making our public schools safe, welcoming environments where teachers want to teach, parents want to send their kids, and students want to learn.”
*Response to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) Report Card