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Statement from Anne Stanton, President, and CEO of the Linked Learning Alliance on NAEP and CAASPP Scores

October 24, 2022 | Anne Stanton

“The latest National Assessment on Educational Progress (NAEP) and California Assessment of Student Progress and Performance (CAASPP) scores point to serious challenges on the road to educational and economic recovery. Both sets of scores also share the same underlying story: Equity gaps between student groups are wider than ever in the wake of COVID. These gaps magnify existing patterns of racial inequity in our schools, the pandemic’s disproportionate effects on students of color, and its far-reaching implications for student persistence in high school and to and through postsecondary.

The nation’s 4th and 8th-grade reading and mathematics scores are at their lowest in over two decades. While California’s overall NAEP scores are better than the national average, showing us what’s possible as we regain our footing, scores among students of color dropped. CAASPP results reveal performance declines for students across demographics and grade levels, with the widest gaps among Black and Latinx students. Taken together, the data underscores the urgent need for more rigorous, relevant, and supportive educational experiences that connect learning to purpose and advance racial and economic justice.

The numbers reinforce what families, educators, and those close to students already know. Deeply embedded racial disparities that were further exasperated during the pandemic caused too many young people--particularly students of color--to disconnect from learning and their potential. We’re seeing these impacts come to a head through a surge in chronic absenteeism, high school dropout rates and plummeting post secondary enrollment rates. With the release of the assessment data, it is now clearer than ever that more students are at risk of entering high school academically behind, and are more at risk of not transitioning to or completing postsecondary. We cannot afford to lose this talent. Nor can we afford to compound our current college and career readiness crisis. Meeting this moment will require intentional and coordinated strategies at the nexus of K-12, higher education, and workforce that accelerate young people towards self-determined futures.

In California and beyond, hundreds of communities are coming together to connect and integrate every aspect of learning to create real advantages for students—from carefully aligned and scaffolded programs of study that infuse rigorous academic content with real-world relevance, and offer comprehensive student supports and intentional relationships across grade levels, education systems, and industries. Decades of Linked Learning practice and substantial evidence have shown us what this type of inclusive, inspiring approach to learning can do, especially for students of color and those who start high school academically behind. Supportive college and career prep for all adds up to equitable student experiences, more relevant learning, and smoother transitions across educational segments.

The state of California and our nation sits at a crossroads today. Now is the time to double down on what works for high school students, educators, and communities: high-quality, integrated pathways that fuse high school and postsecondary experiences and accelerate student momentum on the path to a postsecondary credential. We can break through silos to create seamless teaching and learning environments. California is paving the way through large-scale investments in Golden State Pathways, dual enrollment, and community schools, which together lead to more engaging student experiences and postsecondary attainment. We look forward to working at home and across the country to rebuild and reimagine high schools that deliver on the promise of the AND in college and career readiness, and put this powerful combination to work for more students and communities.”