The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) has just released “highlights” of the 2019 score results, clearly a euphemism, for “lowlights” would be a more appropriate term.Unfortunately, the results are dismal! Nearly 294,000 fourth- and eighth-grade students  across the nation participated in the 2019 reading assessment.. . . Approximately 296,900 students across the nation participated in the 2019 mathematics assessment.

The NAEP reports four levels of performance for these subject areas. In order of performance from low to high, they are Below basic(performance that falls below our lowest performance level.), Basic, Proficient, and Advanced.  Students performing at or above the NAEP Proficient level on NAEP assessments demonstrate solid academic performance and competency over challenging subject matter. It should be noted that the NAEP Proficient achievement level does not represent grade level proficiency as determined by other assessment standards (e.g., state or district assessments).

According to the report, only 35% of the fourth graders test at or above the Proficient level. The math scores were only slightly better, with  41% reaching Proficiency, while only 9% performed at the Advanced Level. Proceeding to the next grade tested, the scores for eighth grade were the same for both reading and math: Only 34% demonstrated proficiency in each subject. Finally, of twelfth graders (those who graduated from high school last year), 37% reached proficiency in reading, while 24% were Proficient in math! 

These statistics are embarrassing at best, and shameful at worst. They clearly indicate that only about ⅓ of American students are capable of doing the academic work expected in their grade. And 76% of high school seniors are almost innumerate! And the problem has drastic implications, because most of these students proceed to  college. Between January and October 2019, 2.1 million (66.2 percent) were enrolled in college.

Does anyone believe that this trend will reverse when most of American students are either working from home under less than ideal circumstances: caretakers who are doing little more than babysitting or students who are not actively engaged in meaningful learning? Throwing money at the problem will not solve it. The average per/pupil expenditure: The amount spent per pupil for public elementary and secondary education (pre-K through 12th grade) for all 50 states and the District of Columbia  is almost $13,000!  Getting back to basics is absolutely crucial. Teaching students how to learn is leagues beyond assigning popular pulp fiction. Differentiate instruction constantly. Certainly, essential math, reading, and writing skills must be reinforced at every grade level. Give sufficient practice in math.  Teach classic literature that contains more challenging concepts and contains complex sentence structure  and vocabulary.  The future is now, and American students are woefully behind.

For specific data on NAEP performance, visit:  NAEP Reading: National Achievement-Level Results