Fright Night in Missouri Comes Early
Reviewing the recent release of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) is an ideal way to get into the spirit of Halloween. The falloff in student performance is enough to make your skin crawl; to take one example–the NAEP report features a six-point drop in Missouri fourth-grade mathematics and five-point drop in fourth-grade reading.
In response to the release of these aforementioned test scores, the commissioner released two quotes:
- “The results serve as another indicator that high-quality instruction matters.”
- “It’s clear that the pandemic had an impact on student learning and that there is work to do. We must use this information, alongside state and local metrics, to continue accelerating post-pandemic learning with improved systems and processes to meet the needs of each student.”
I don’t disagree with the first statement, but what does it say about the quality of Missouri’s teachers? Is the commissioner suggesting that the teachers are to blame for the drop in test scores? And if so, what exactly does the commissioner propose to do about it?
How about this for starters: If high-quality instruction matters so much (and it does), maybe Missouri’s Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) should reconsider its policy of tying teacher salaries solely to experience and degree acquisition rather than student performance.
As to the second point: yes, the pandemic, or at least the response to the pandemic, did have an impact. Closing schools for months at a time does tend to impair the progress of our students. And yes, there is more work to do . . . but is there nothing more concrete to suggest than “improved systems and processes”? How about turning a critical eye toward DESE’s policy of blanket accreditation and the restrictions on open enrollment and school choice?
The response of our Department of Education to these test results tells us everything we need to know about why Missouri students are lagging behind their peers. Leadership is about a lot more than stating the obvious and then offering anodyne generalities as an excuse for doing nothing. Leadership is about taking real action, even if it means ruffling the feathers of entrenched interests.
What’s really horrifying about the NAEP results is that DESE clearly has no plans to do anything about them.
If Missouri education were a horror movie, we’d say that it’s time for the hero to stop looking outside for monsters to slay.
The calls are coming from inside the house.