by Michael J. Petrilli
“Last week brought the latest results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress’s Long Term Trend series, and they were sobering. Just before the pandemic kicked in, US thirteen-year-olds saw statistically-significant declines in both math and reading—a first in the study’s nearly fifty-year history. Black, Hispanic, and low-achieving students saw the largest declines.
“The question is why, and the answer is: Nobody knows for sure. The Nation’s Report Card is great for tracking trends across time and across subgroups, but clunky for looking inside the black box of cause and effect. So we pundits are left to float hypotheses and stitch together what evidence we can to test them.
“So it was that I suggested to several reporters last week, and on Twitter, that the Great Recession might be to blame. I’ve floated the idea before, given that ‘main’ NAEP results have also lagged of late for more or less the same cohort of students. This led to some gentle teasing from some of my edu-wonk friends, making fun of my supposedly tortured logic that blames a long-ago economic downturn, and related spending cuts in schools, rather than a more proximate cause, like the Common Core.”
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