NAEP Is Telling Us Again That It’s Past Time to Close Long-Standing Resource Gaps By Denise Forte
Those who study educational disparities know that money matters in education. And it’s not just about how much money is allocated, it’s about resource equity, that is, how effectively state and district leaders spend their funds and whether funds are distributed equitably.
From this perspective, the story behind this year’s lackluster NAEP results began nearly a decade ago. The eighthgraders whose test results were captured by NAEP’s long-term assessment were born right before the Great Recession. They started kindergarten around 2012-13 as federal relief dollars for schools dried up, impacting the very factors that are essential to ensuring a high-quality learning experience.
Consider that state preschool program access and quality declined as a result of the economic downturn and have yet to return to pre-recession trends. Also, between 2008 and 2012, the K-12 public education system lost nearly 300,000 jobs, the largest reduction in our nation’s history. Of the jobs lost, more than 120,000 belonged to elementary and secondary teachers with layoffs disproportionately affecting schools serving students of color and students from low-income backgrounds.
Even when district leaders were able to reinstate classes and programs that were reduced or eliminated during the recession, there were teacher shortages, especially in math, science, and special education. It has taken years to begin rebuilding the teacher workforce. Yet, the nation still has fewer public school teachers today than it did in 2008 and remains a long way from developing a racially and culturally diverse workforce that reflects the diversity of the student population.