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EDITORIAL: Don’t delay release of Nation’s Report Card

Education officials have devised a solution to public outrage over low educational achievement. Instead of embracing reform, they want to delay releasing test scores, so as not to draw attention to the issue during elections. It’s bureaucrat-think at its finest.

The National Assessment of Educational Progress is called the Nation’s Report Card for a reason. It’s the gold standard for examining education results in the public schools.

Such data allows policymakers and researchers to readily compare states with each other and helps identify education policies and approaches that actually work. For instance, dramatic increases in education spending both nationally and in Nevada haven’t produced comparable improvements in student achievement.

It also lets the public assess how a state’s performance has changed over time. This type of nationally administered assessment is necessary because states often fudge statistics or eliminate tests to make their performance look better than it really is. Think about how Nevada eliminated its high school proficiency exams over the past decade. Or how the Clark County School District gutted its grading standards.

The latest Nation’s Report Card revealed the destructiveness of the coronavirus and needlessly prolonged school closures. Before the pandemic, national reading and math scores had made small improvements since 2003. Those have been wiped out. The 2022 results reveal that lockdowns erased two decades worth of incremental progress.

The results are frustrating to read, especially when you think about the students behind the numbers. But they’re extremely important to have. They give voters, elected officials and policymakers more accurate information, which allows them to make better-informed decisions.

This has the National Assessment Governing Board, which oversees the test, quite concerned. Results were typically released in odd-numbered years, but the pandemic upended that schedule. Last year’s dismal results came out in October, shortly before the election.

Last month, the board voted to postpone the 2026 reading and math tests until 2027. This is subject to congressional approval. The concern is that publicizing dismal test scores just before an election could draw too much attention to the embarrassing results.

“The Governing Board looks forward to re-establishing the nearly two-decade norm of releasing the Nation’s Report Card off-cycle from federal elections, allowing all of us to understand how America’s students are doing,” Lesley Muldoon, National Assessment Governing Board executive director, said in a release.

What a crock. Instead of urging politicians and the education establishment to use the results to make improvements that work, the reflexive plan is to delay releasing information to the public. Too many American students may be ignorant, but the nation’s voters don’t have to be.

Those running the Nation’s Report Card need to focus on reporting accurate data, not worrying about the political fallout of its findings.

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