Hey Shawnta! NAEP Scores Are a Disaster. How Do We Improve Students’ Academic Outcomes?

Oct 26, 2022 5:15:26 PM

by Shawnta S. Barnes

The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) is frequently called the Nation’s Report Card. In 2022—from January to March—NAEP was given to a representative section of 4th and 8th graders in all 50 states, D.C., Bureau of Indian Education schools, Department of Defense schools, and Puerto Rico. Students in both public and private schools participated in the assessment. 

The last time NAEP was given was in 2019—before the pandemic occurred. The pandemic forced many school buildings to close for an extended period, with students learning remotely.

It is no surprise that the 2022 NAEP scores are alarming

  • Every state saw declines on at least one exam. 
  • Black fourth- and eighth-grade students scored the lowest overall in comparison to all other racial groups for reading and math. 
  • Overall, the greatest academic drops were in math. 
  • Reading saw some decline, but not as bad as math. 

U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona called the results “appalling and unacceptable.” But words like “appalling and unacceptable” have been bandied about every time assessment results have been released since the pandemic began. 

At some point, the narrative must shift from complaining about how bad it is to tangible actions to improve academic outcomes. 

Some states are taking action. 

  • The Indiana Department of Education plans to use a $111 million literacy grant to train teachers in the science of reading and phonics-based literacy instruction. IDOE also aims to increase the number of literacy instructional coaches in elementary schools. 

  • Alaska’s Department of Education and Early Development recently announced a literacy grant to help districts purchase literacy curriculum that aligns with the science of reading. As we know from journalism like Emily Hanford’s new podcast, Sold A Story, too many children aren’t getting research-based curriculum that helps them crack the code of written English. 

  • The Colorado Department of Education (CDE) is targeting both literacy and math through a grant where some schools were able to obtain both math and literacy curricula. Additionally, CDE provided a list of approved curricula selected schools had to choose from.

State-level action should only be one component of the response. District-level, school-level, and classroom-level actions matter as well. 

Parents need to reach out to see what actions their children’s schools are taking. And ask what specific recommendations the schools have for parents to support academic growth at home. For guidance on how parents can better connect with their children’s teachers,  check out this guide from Learning Heroes.

Parents, from the survey data I've seen, it looks like you're holding it together. Stay the course—now is not the time to panic—it's time to push!



Shawnta S. Barnes

Shawnta (Shawn-tay) S. Barnes, also known as Educator Barnes, is a married mother of identical twin boys. She navigates education from not only the educator’s perspective but also the parent’s perspective. She has been an educator for nearly two decades. Shawnta works with K-12 schools, universities, & education adjacent organizations through her education consulting business Blazing Brilliance. She is an adjunct college professor, supervises student teachers, Indy Kids Winning Editor-in-Chief, Brave Brothers Books Co-founder, & CEO, and Brazen Education Podcast host. She holds five education licenses: English/language arts 5-12, English to speakers of other languages P-12, library/media P-12, reading P-12, and school administration P-12, and she has held a job in every licensed area. Previously, she has served as a school administrator, English teacher, English learners teacher, literacy coach, and librarian. She won the 2019 Indiana Black Expo Excellence in Education Journalism Award. In 2023, she completed her doctorate in Literacy, Culture, and Language Education with a minor in Learning Sciences. She is an urban gardener in her spare time and writes about her harvest-to-table journey at gardenershicole.com. To learn more about Shawnta, visit educatorbarnes.com.

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