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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Tell parents truth: Enough with the happy talk

Tell parents the unpleasant truth about learning loss, writes Andrew Rotherham in a story on the state NAEP scores in the The 74. "The disaster and inequity of pandemic policies is now in clear focus," he writes. Despite a few outliers -- Department of Defense and Catholic schools -- "it’s an across-the-board disaster for the United States."

"Students already furthest from success in school were most impacted," he writes. "Thirty-eight percent of eighth-graders are at a level in mathematics that leaves them functionally unprepared to fend for themselves in the world, let alone pursue success in various college and career opportunities."

In Virginia, where many schools were closed for in-person instruction longer than elsewhere, scores fell sharply, writes Rotherham, who serves on the state board of education.

Yet many parents are confused about what's happened to reading and math achievement, he writes.

Some professional development focuses on helping teachers distract attention from objective measures of reading and numeracy. Leading newspapers have misled readers about whether any of this even matters. States like New York and California have dragged their feet on releasing test score data, while in other places, school officials are minimizing the importance of standardized exams.
The overall fecklessness, irresponsibility and almost total attention to politics and public relations rather than kids surprises even cynical observers of the sector.

"Learning loss" became "unfinished learning," as though students were bound to rebound quickly.

"State leaders must communicate directly with parents about the data — what it means and what families should expect as a remedy," Rotherham writes. "Obviously, states and school districts should provide support to students and families such as tutoring, direct grants to parents, expanded choice options, longer school days and a longer school year for students." But the first step is honesty.

"Happy talk" is the besetting sin of education. Remember all the talk about how "resilient" kids are? Now we're about to hear that schools should focus on social and emotional learning -- or anything else that can't be measured -- rather than boring old math. Instead of reading -- it's so oppressive -- kids can learn to watch TikTok videos.

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