The results of the National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP, were released yesterday, September 1st, prompting a New York Times headline that read “The Pandemic Erased Two Decades of Progress in Math and Reading”, the 74 headline added “Two Decades of Growth WIPED OUT by Two years of Pandemic”. Peter Greene, an education policy watcher, called it NAEP Pearl Clutching Day. I myself had tweeted out “With the release of pandemic NAEP scores, we're about to have the worst cycle of education discourse imaginable”, and man did that ring true. Everyone was running to their corners to abolish teacher’s unions, attack remote & hybrid learning and mask mandates - just relitigating every pandemic issue imaginable - and the results brought out the usual resident experts in everything, like Matt Yglesias, who called the scores “A Short-term L for the left that was more supportive of closure”.
While everyone online is jumping to conclusions, we thought it would be important to help provide some context, to step back and take inventory of the data, claims, headlines, and provide context and forecast next steps: what, if anything, could or should we do in response to this report? So I reached out to author and educator John Warner, whose intuition I tend to trust on this kind of thing. John is the author of several books, Why They Can’t Write, The Writer’s Practice and Sustainable. Resilient. Free.: The Future of Public Higher Education, released in 2020. Thanks John for taking the time to talk with me today. Let’s start with what the NAEP results say and what they mean, and then we’ll compare that to the headlines. So what do the results say and what should we make of them? Why does the framing matter? What context is missing? How could we meaningfully report on these results? What’s missing in the discourse?
John Warner, author of Why They Can't Write, The Writer's Practice, and Sustainable. Resilient. Free: The Future of Public Higher Education. He serves on Human Restoration Project's Board of Directors.