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Students are falling behind


WORLD Radio - Students are falling behind

The National Assessment of Educational Progress test results are dismal


MARY REICHARD, HOST: It’s Tuesday, the first day of November, 2022. You’re listening to WORLD Radio and we’re glad you’ve joined us today! Good morning, I’m Mary Reichard.

NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher. First up on The World and Everything in It: The nation’s students are falling behind.

For the first time in three years, students took the National Assessment of Educational Progress test (known by the acronym “NAP”). And the results were dismal. It showed that school students all across the country are up to a year behind after the COVID-19 shutdowns. WORLD’s Josh Schumacher has our story.

GUIDERA: Today’s data release is a clear and heart-wrenching statement that Virginia is failing her students.

JOSH SCHUMACHER, Reporter: That’s Virginia’s Secretary of Education Aimee Guidera on the day the NAEP scores were released.

Only about 30 percent of fourth graders in the state of Virginia are reading at or above grade level.

Kurt Kreassig is the Dean of Education at Regent University. He says students in the third or fourth grade who aren’t reading on grade level are likely to struggle for the rest of their school career.

KREASSIG: They're going to struggle in school, get frustrated, have a greater potential to drop out. The percent increases dramatically when a student cannot read on grade level by fourth grade.

But Virginia isn’t the only failing state. It’s every state. And students who are behind now will continue to be behind. And will continue to be frustrated by it.

KREASSIG: Students make the decision to drop out of school around ninth grade, they don't wait till they're a senior in high school. So we've got the potential of having large numbers of students never finish high school, what kind of job can you get without a high school diploma, you can still work in a trade, you can still be very successful. But for the vast majority without a high school education, there's limited options.

And that could be a detrimental blow to the United States’ economy.

KREASSIG: We're talking trillions in lifetime earnings that are potentially lost for the students.

Kreassig says money—government funding, or private assistance—will help. But the school system as it is, and specifically teachers, don’t really have the bandwidth to do more.

KREASSIG: How are you going to just rely on the classroom teacher to up their game when they're already beyond capacity?

Kreassig explains that teachers have taken on a variety of extra roles during the pandemic—social worker, surrogate parent, and sometimes spiritual guide.

But it isn’t just teachers who suffered. Siva Raj lives in the San Francisco area and has two sons. Each of whom suffered in very different ways.

RAJ: For my older guy who was in high school and it was just gotten was like a, you know, a freshman at that bind. And he really struggled with the coursework, and he is very extroverted kid, very athletic, you know, really likes kind of being out there, and the social interaction, etc.

This was different from his younger son.

RAJ: He was, you know, he's a little bit more introverted, but he could see his teachers, he could see his peers on on the Zoom screen. I mean, he has this appetite for learning. And it felt like his appetite was not being satisfied, he was really kind of like, not getting what he wanted from, you know, his schooling. So he was able to cope with the coursework, that was an issue for him, he was in, you know, third grade when the pandemic head and now he's in fifth.

But it was also rough for the parents, as well. Autumn Loijen also lives in the San Francisco area. She has three kids who were all stuck at home for part of the pandemic.

LOIJEN: I think being a single parent and having three kids to manage two of whom, like, you have the preschooler who wants constant attention, you have the older kid who doesn't stay on track very well. And then you have your middle kid who is you know, only a second grader. And so, you know, trying to make sure they're all in the meetings that we're supposed to be in and so on. It was a lot, you know, we were, we were, you know, exhausted every single day.

But it wasn’t just exhausting, either.

LOIJEN: I think it's hard to communicate how difficult it was, and how, like soul crushing it is to see your child suffering. You know, people say, Oh, I jump in front of a bus for my kid. And I always thought it was theoretical until I had them. And then I'm like, No, you really will jump in front of a bus for your kid. Right? Yeah. And feel that level of commitment for them, and see them struggling and in pain and be unable to help.

States like Virginia are trying to take “learning recovery” action to remedy the situation. Parents like Siva and Autumn say that their children are getting caught up. Still, it’s been a challenge—and it’s taken a long time.

RAJ: It's only you. And everything is on your shoulders. Now, the entire future of these two individuals rests on you, there's nobody else you can count on here. Right. And especially if you're a single parent, that kind of button is even more, and you'll generally feel like, Hey, if you can't help them, then their future is compromised. And you know, this, it's not, it's not hypothetical, this is real.

Reporting for WORLD, I’m Josh Schumacher.

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