To the Editor:
The nation will soon get the most comprehensive picture to date of COVID’s impact on student achievement, though you may not know it by reading the recent essay “Ignore NAEP. Better Yet, Abolish It” (June 6, 2022).
Far from something to be ignored, the National Assessment of Educational Progress results to be released this fall are the most important in NAEP’s 50-year history. We will get the first national look at how 4th and 8th grade students are doing in math and reading today compared with students just before COVID began disrupting schools in spring 2020. It’s critical that we pay attention to the results, which will give educators, policymakers, and the public an important tool to make informed decisions that advance educational opportunity.
NAEP has long been known as “the nation’s report card” and for good reason. It is the only nationally representative and continuous assessment of what students know and can do. NAEP does not produce student- or school-level data, so results aren’t punitive. Instead, NAEP does something that no other assessment does; it provides comparable achievement data across the nation. It is an objective yardstick and a powerful flashlight.
In addition to achievement results, this year’s assessment includes survey questions about students’ backgrounds and learning experiences during the pandemic. For example, we’ll learn more about students’ access to technology and support they received at home during distance learning—critical context for understanding students’ progress and meeting their needs.
Grasping the pandemic’s full effects on the nation’s schools and students has not been easy. It might be tempting to close our eyes and hope for the best, but doing so now would be irresponsible. We need to know where schools are and how the pandemic affected student learning. Absent that information, educators are operating in the dark.
National Assessment Governing Board
A version of this article appeared in the July 13, 2022 edition of Education Week as 2022 Assessment ‘Most Important’ Ever