December 8, 2022
Professor of Economics, Brown University
Aimee Rogstad Guidera
Secretary of Education, Commonwealth of Virginia
Cheryl A. Oldham
Vice President of Education Policy, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Senior Vice President of Education and Workforce, U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation
In 2022, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) — often referred to as the Nation's Report Card showed the largest-ever drop in fourth- and eighth-grade math. This not only has ramifications for educators and policymakers, but for the business community: Today’s middle schoolers will be tomorrow’s employees, so a focus on academic recovery will only make the future U.S. workforce that much stronger.
To discuss this critical issue, Emily Oster, a professor of economics at Brown University, and Aimee Rogstad Guidera, Secretary of Education for the Commonwealth of Virginia, joined the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation for its Talent Forward: The Future of Talent event. Read on for their insights on this year’s NAEP, and how leaders can help tomorrow’s workforce achieve more today.
Data Should Be Used as a Tool for Recovery, Rather Than Blame
While the data from this year’s NAEP is discouraging, Oster encourages educators and policymakers to avoid using it as a point of blame or something to be ignored. Rather, she encourages them to use the data to find and implement solutions.
“When we talk about student test scores going down, we're talking about students who are not able to read or not able to read at grade level or not able to do math at grade level,” Oster explained. “We should think of data as a tool for recovery in this particular case.”
Schools and districts can leverage data for recovery plans and to find the most effective methods for their students. Oster suggested high-dose tutoring and specific approaches to reading, but encouraged decision-makers to test and experiment to find the most statistically-significant avenues for success.
Virginia Saw Lackluster Results And Plans To Improve With Data
The results from the Spring 2022 NEAP showed a steep drop for states like Virginia, which had the largest declines in the nation on fourth-grade reading and math and had scores three times worse than the national average.
According to Secretary Guidera, education is a high priority for Governor Youngkin. When the NAEP results came out, the governor stated that creating a plan for success for the children of Virginia would be a priority of the administration — and it’d use data as a flashlight, not as a hammer.
Guidera supported the stance, saying, “There is not a single organization … that has gotten great results without changing how they use data … as a tool for improvement.”
To combat the loss of two decades of proficiency, Virginia created a seven-point action plan involving planning partnerships, investing in people, and having high expectations. The North Star of the plan — benchmarks to college and career readiness — ushers in millions of dollars in learning recovery grants, partnerships with HBCUs, building mentor and tutor relationships, and more to address this learning loss.
Businesses Can Help by Taking an Active Part in Student Education
According to Secretary Guidera, the business community plays a role in responding to the education crisis.
“This is your future workforce. This is the future of talent, right?” Guidera emphasized. “We will not have the workforce that this country needs and we'll not be investing in people the way we need to if the business community is not involved as partners.”
Guidera suggested tutoring services and partnerships with schools as two ways for the private sector to get involved. She also encouraged businesses to find ways to get employers into schools to demonstrate to students why what they’re doing in school matters for their future well-being.
“We need to break down the walls between schools and work and ensure that we provide as much exposure, experience, and expertise as possible to our students,” said Guidera. “[We] also [need to show] that work is exciting and school is connected to work.”