This Wise Weekly WrapUp asks what do NAEP and interstate rest stops, triage and traffic, have in common? Buckle that seat belt. I am proposing a hard STOP.
The results of National Assessment of Educational Progress ( NAEP) for each state confirmed other somber data coming out the past weeks. Learning loss from COVID’s impact will not be corrected with bandaids, but requires a major treatment plan.
A quick rehash of the disturbing details. For most states, our k-12 students have fallen significantly behind , especially Black and Latino students. Another national version of NAEP two months ago showed two generations of progress wiped out for many students. Most state’s standardized tests show the same. And recently ACT reported the lowest results in 30 years with a record percentage not showing college ready in any of four major areas.
Enough piling on. What must be done?
First look at the current situation for most educators. Before COVID, our education system was making limited progress, at best. During COVID, in 13,000 school districts and every state, education leaders have been forced to conduct systems and school triage; struggling to meet day- to- day challenges just to sustain an education and mental health pulse. Exhausted by unrelenting challenges means never any time to focus on what you want to come next.
Turn to traffic. Soon, millions of us will hit the interstates for Thanksgiving. Bumper to bumper, long tie ups, reckless drivers. Calming restless children, figuring how to change crowded lane, desperately checking the GPS for a better way — -all traffic triage…and the longer the trip, the greater the strain. Yet…invariably, we see nothing but brake lights for mindless miles.
So what can we do? We pull into a rest stop. We come full stop, park, and often, just reflect. We know we are losing travel time; the 18 wheelers still flow by. We will arrive later than planned. Maybe disrupt some schedules. But we are preparing ourselves for the next leg…we are taking another look, examining alternatives, and, often, planning another route that we had not considered before.
Time for education and policy makers — -school ,district, and state — -to pull into the education rest stop — -while there is still time. Unlike driving in heavy traffic, you can still chart the route you want. For many districts, you still have large amounts of unobligated federal ESSER funds that you need to plan how to use in less than two years. Plus, by working with state and local leaders, you can coordinate their additional COVID relief dollars plus new transportation and infrastructure funds to begin building the system you want, not what you had.
So here are rest stop steps before you jump back behind the wheel.
(1)Decide this trip will be different, not just the same drive. That means deciding what type of education system you want.
(2) begin sharing your vision with all those who need to be involved. Work with state and local leaders to redesign social service delivery and providing universal internet access. Particularly communicate with teachers that this means jointly redesigning their work, not just adding more layers of stress.
(3) figure out first steps and greatest change priorities. Early literacy and mathematics are foundational in many ways. . While you address immediate learning loss, how will you also institute long term improvements?
4) Before you pull onto the on-ramp back into the flow, vow that next year the drive will look much different than this year.
I stress this critical time because continuing the same fast rushing education traffic patterns is no win for students or schools. It’s time to pull over, plan, and, proceed differently.