Preparing New York’s students for the workforce and the responsibilities and challenges beyond school is the most important job of any education system. Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, these goals became significantly more challenging, and in these last few years we learned a great deal about how to address disruptions in our normal educational processes.
Unfortunately, recent standardized-test results show massive deficits in student performance that need to be considered should we ever face another health-related disruption like the one COVID-19 presented.
For the first time since 2019, students were measured for their math and reading proficiencies in grades 3-8. In New York state, and across the board, the results were significantly worse than the last time these tests were administered. As such, math scores suffered the worst decline in history and reading scores were at a 30-year low. In New York, only 39 percent of children tested reached proficiency in math, which is down from 47 percent pre-COVID. These setbacks are going to have lasting impacts.
It is clear from the data that remote learning, as it was administered, failed our students. Naturally, a pause on in-school learning was necessary in the earliest stages of the outbreak; however, these pauses went on for far too long. Students, especially younger ones, require the care and guidance of their teachers every day from morning to afternoon.
As a legislature, we are now charged with developing a new plan that accounts for scenarios like the one we faced in 2020. In that same vein, we must also continue to look at ways to update and modernize our educational programs, so they match all the needs of New York’s students. These test scores point to potential inadequacies in our educational system, and some of them lie outside COVID’s impact. Identifying what works best for students and improving our education system is a never-ending effort.
To these ends, the Assembly Minority Conference launched two initiatives: the Task Force on Learning for Work and the Task Force for School Safety & Security. Together, these two statewide information-gathering forums addressed topics impacting our students, ranging from job training and workforce preparedness to ensuring every student has an opportunity to learn safely and securely in schools across New York state.
Additionally, we must also ensure our teachers, administrators, and parents have the support they need to thrive as well. The success of New York’s school children depends on a concerted effort from education professionals, parents, and legislators. Together, we can build a better, more resilient education system in New York, and we must do so, now, with purpose and urgency.
William (Will) A. Barclay, 53, Republican, is the New York Assembly minority leader and represents the 120th New York Assembly District, which currently encompasses most of Oswego County, including the cities of Oswego and Fulton, as well as the town of Lysander in Onondaga County and town of Ellisburg in Jefferson County.