WASHINGTON—American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten issued the following statement in response to the National Assessment of Educational Progress Report Card. The Nation’s Report Card shows that average scores for 12th-grade students declined in reading and has stayed the same for math since 2015, with scores dropping for struggling students in both subjects:
“What we see in this data snapshot, while disappointing, is not surprising: Our students—particularly in Black, brown and low-income communities—are still bearing the brunt of two decades of austerity, competition and test-based fixation that have failed to prioritize the needs of students, including the 90 percent of kids who attend public schools. Our most vulnerable students are falling further behind across grades and subjects—an indication that they need our help, and more support.
“But what the data doesn’t tell us in detail is why. Almost half of America’s kids have trauma—which of course, this pandemic will make even worse—and they’re going to schools without nurses and counselors. For years, we’ve been advocating that children need comprehensive social and emotional supports so they’re able to engage in meaningful learning in safe and welcoming environments. Now, as the coronavirus pandemic ravages communities across the country—only adding to the anxiety and trauma students face—it’s vital to meet kids where they are and to do what evidence shows works for improving student well-being and achievement.
“In this unprecedented time, we need someone at the helm who understands these issues, and serious investment in the kids who need it most. Unfortunately, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has not just ignored public schools, she also has actively tried to defund and destabilize them and then use the effects as her rationale for privatization. Even during a pandemic, she’s hell-bent on siphoning public money to expand private school vouchers. To be clear: Student achievement doesn’t require privatization, it requires teaching, not testing; investments that prioritize safe and welcoming learning environments for kids; powerful and engaging learning with additional academic supports for those who need them; expanding teachers’ capacity with professional development and time to collaborate; and the learning and technology tools to get this done.
“Our answer to the question of how we help students succeed shouldn’t be to pull the rug out from under the strategies that we know are starting to work and have potential to grow. It’s to support programs we know prioritize children’s well-being and achievement—and fund them.”