TRENTON, N.J. – Learning loss is the most pressing issue in education, said Assemblywoman Nancy Munoz.
Within the past week, the state Assembly has held a hearing on the topic and the National Assessment of Educational Progress released its results showing New Jersey had a worse decline than the national average.
“This is a historic wake-up call that our kids and teachers need help catching up,” said Munoz, the Deputy Republican Leader (R-Union). “The entire focus of the state Department of Education needs to be on addressing learning loss.”
New Jersey’s fourth graders averaged 7 points worse on the math assessment and 4 points worse on reading compared to 5 points and 3 points nationally. New Jersey’s eighth graders fared worse in math, with scores down 11 points, compared a national decline of 8 points. Teachers have also shared concerns that high school students have lost critical thinking skills.
This is the first time the NAEP has been administered since 2019.
“The problem is exacerbated by kids’ social, emotional and mental health problems following the pandemic, making learning loss even more difficult to address,” Munoz expressed. “All the resources possible need to be dedicated to learning loss. Our kids are our future. Additional support is critical to help teachers and students meet the moment.”
New Jersey received nearly $2.8 billion from the federal government to provide aid to elementary and secondary schools, no less than 20% of which, about $553 million, must be used to address learning loss.
The state has not spent much on learning loss yet. In fact, just how much is unclear. After only providing $2 million for learning loss in the state budget, the most recent auditor report shows more than $162 million from the CARES Act was spent on reopening and remote learning, digital divides, employee benefits and other miscellaneous education expenses.
Of the $4.66 billion of total Covid-19 funds provided to the Department of Education, only $800 million is shown as expended as of March 31 without a detailed list of items.
“My concern is that the Murphy administration keeps sitting on money and hasn’t provided a plan to address learning loss and student mental health. This is not the time nor the place to be negligent. It is too important for our kids’ future,” concluded Munoz.