In the wake of disappointing test scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), an unbiased set of tests often referred to as the nation’s report card, I spoke with a number of reporters and education policy folks who were searching for explanations as to why. The search for the answer to why NAEP results are what they are is an exercise in speculation and conjecture, as I have made clear with this round of results, and in previous rounds.
A reporter at Education Week, Sarah Sparks, was one of the folks I spoke with. And in a story last week she quoted my conjecture as to what could be the cause, which focused on screen time. As brief quotes often do, this one doesn’t reflect the speaker’s broader thoughts, and for consistency, it’s worth putting down a bit of context, and a bit of elaboration.
In context of the latest NAEP declines, the story quoted me saying:
“I really think it’s important to just take a look at that and say, well, maybe it’s more something in the culture rather than specific policies,” said Nat Malkus, the deputy director of education policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, noting that states’ demographic and policy changes in education do not explain the widescale declines.
“My suspicion rides on the ubiquity of screens and our attempts to make those useful in educating kids, and the concomitant increase in their use outside of school,” Malkus said. “It could just be that actually technology is not the answer for education, but that it’s sort of the enemy … wearing down the attention span that it takes to develop a sense of reading for pleasure.”