This week, scores came out for the only nationwide test that lets us compare results from one state to another. That test is called the National Assessment of Educational Progress or NAEP, and if you are wondering whether your own child took it or will take it in the years to come, it is actually only taken by a sample of students in each state, and those who participate are carefully selected to be representative of the racial, geographic and income differences among U.S. students.
The NAEP results are important as a measure of how well we are educating our children in this country. And what did we learn? As the Hechinger Report headline plainly states, “National test scores reveal a decade of educational stagnation.”
That means we really aren’t going anywhere. Despite all the best intentions and educators’ hard work, only about one-third of America’s fourth- and eighth-grade students read at the NAEP Proficient level, and once again, there are huge and unconscionable achievement gaps.
And remember the goal set is reaching proficiency. We aren’t even talking about getting children to be advanced readers. Only 9% of children nationwide scored at the NAEP Advanced level for grade 4 reading. And yet we know that what it takes to be successful in this 21st Century includes increasingly more sophisticated literacy skills. So what should this mean for parents?
- It means that parents can’t stand by and assume that their children will become strong readers.
- And while it isn’t a parent’s job to teach their children to read, it means that parents need to help children build the kinds of skills that will set them up to read well.
- And it means that starting from birth, parents need to know about the types of skills that need to accumulate (many are surprised), and keep tabs on whether children are reaching certain benchmarks all along the way – especially long before formal school years even begin, but through the early years of elementary school, too.
John Engler, governor of Michigan and chair of the National Assessment Governing Board that oversees NAEP, candidly said, “We must do better for all children.”
The question is, how long will that take, and what should parents do in the meantime? At Abound, we feel strongly that parents can make a big difference by building in certain routines and doing certain things while going through everyday life — and by keeping a reading skill growth chart from birth through grade 3. That way issues are caught early when intervention works best, and parents can work with clinicians and teachers to move children forward.