Nation’s report card a wake-up call

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The 2017 National Assessment of Educational Progress numbers are in and the results are appalling, abysmal and pathetic. Often called the Nation’s Report Card, the NAEP measures proficiency in reading and mathematics across the country. It is considered by most a good measure of actual educational attainment and an accurate indicator of what students are learning. In the latest version it appears the answer to that is little or next to nothing.

With educational spending up and other nationwide test scores such as the SAT and ACT flatlining, it appears that very few of our pupils are acquiring much of anything these days. Across the U.S., eighth-graders demonstrated only a 35 percent proficiency rate in reading and 33 percent proficiency in mathematics. That is to say nearly two-thirds of all eighth-graders across this land are less than proficient in these two areas. Naturally, deficiencies there will affect every other subject and erode pupils’ ability to function at high levels of intellectual accomplishment.

The culprits? Over-reliance on technology in the classroom for one. Both pupils and teachers have become enamored with the ease of writing, grading and assigning work on the various platforms available. Rather than require hand-written essays that must be hand-graded, teachers allow assignments to be submitted over the web, lending to much cutting and pasting and other plagiarism, if teachers do not avail themselves of anti-plagiarism software. Tests can be graded by machine, making multiple-option testing more prevalent.

Chromebooks or tablets in the classroom substitute for flesh and blood teachers who become assigners of web pages, not purveyors of information, encouragers and clarifiers of students’ questions or patient guides for learning and understanding. Few children are self-directed learners in spite of schools of education and school central office staff wishing it were so.

Finally, the wretched NAEP results point squarely at the horrendous results of the present teaching of reading, which include whole word, sight words and other non-phonetic-based teaching. If schools would jettison these dreadful methods and go back to the boring, tried and true phonics instruction that yield non-boring results, they will produce students who can read and will even be excited about school.

Julia Yancey