Math Scores Fell in Most States
Last month, results were released by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), known as the “nation’s report card.” The NAEP tests random students throughout the country in reading and math in both 4th and 8th grades. The latest exam sampled nearly 450,000 students in more than 10,000 schools between January and March. The tests and report are usually administered every two years, but because of the Pandemic, this is the first full report since 2019. This exam is administered by federal officials and is considered more rigorous than many state tests. The results showed that in most states and in all demographic groups, students have experienced significant setbacks in both reading and math – particularly in math. Although these setbacks are attributed to loss of learning during the Pandemic, there was no significant difference between “red” and “blue” states or between schools that were closed for different amounts of time. However, as can be expected, low income and and minority students were impacted the most. Wherever schools were attempting to educate students, the virtual and masked systems did not work well.
Now that schools are back in session and most students and teachers no longer wear masks, schools are struggling with a shortage of teachers, aids, and subs, creating a new learning problem for students. What can we do to help our students catch up?
The greatest area of loss is in math. This is problematic because math has so many building blocks to master in order to be ready for the next step. For example, to be ready for fractions, you need to be fluent in math facts (addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division). To be ready for algebra, you need to be fluent with fractions and decimals. To be ready for geometry and algebra 2, you need to be fluent in algebra 1. So the first step is to see if your child has gaps. You can do this by seeing what types of problems they get wrong on homework, tests, and quizzes, occasionally going over homework together, testing your child on math facts and mental math in the car, and contacting the teacher. It there are gaps, it is important to fill these in ASAP with some kind of remediation. For more on math, click here.
Reading scores declined in almost half the states, a trend that began before the Pandemic. Reading skills are easier to improve than math. Your children should be reading on a regular basis. As parents, you can read some of the same books to discuss and check for comprehension. Don’t worry about your child reading what you consider too easy or poor writing. When I was a child, I hated grade level nonfiction and chose easier books with pictures to learn new things. Research has shown that no matter what people read, regular reading improves skills. Leave it to the teachers to assign age appropriate, high-quality reading. Encourage your children to read genres that are out of their comfort zone, seeking high interest material. Set a reading time of day for the whole family.
Make Learning a Priority
Learning is not all about school. Opportunities abound, including TV (history channel, PBS, etc.), YouTube videos, trips to historic sites, and following the news. The possibilities are endless.
Children can tell when they live in a family that values education. Expectations are to make school, homework, and learning a priority. Many parents love to learn new things, too, and they can share what they learn with their children. Without being a nag, always keep your eye on the big picture. Talk with your children about what your job is like and what their goals are for their adult lives. Many of these goals require college or trade school, and microplanning along the way keeps focus. Of course, minds change, and it is important to take your children seriously as they explore various goals and life choices.
For more information from NPR, click here.
By Cheryl Gedzelman, President, Tutoring For Success, Inc.