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Teach For America CEO Elisa Villanueva Beard Calls for Concerted Effort to Address the Challenges Behind NAEP Data

Our education system cannot continue on the current path.

By Elisa Villanueva Beard

October 24, 2022

Today’s NAEP results for fourth and eighth graders confirm what we glimpsed in last month’s long-term trend assessment of 9-year-olds: Our education system cannot continue on the current path.

  • Today’s results show historic declines in math proficiency for both fourth and eighth graders (though math achievement overall remains higher than it was in 1990).
  • There was a significant decline in reading proficiency for fourth and eighth graders as well. Reading scores were at the same level as in 1992, the first year of the reading exam.
  • Black and Hispanic fourth graders and students who were already struggling before the pandemic lost the most ground.
  • Every state saw declines on at least one exam, and most states on multiple exams.
  • Reading scores stayed steady in most urban districts measured, with Los Angeles being the only district that saw an actual increase, in eighth grade reading scores—results we should dig into as we forge a new path.

These results should drive a national effort to create a fundamentally different educational experience for our children. This is not a challenge for schools alone to solve, it’s a challenge for communities to tackle together at every level of the system. We each have a role to play in ensuring a rich educational experience for students inside school and in leveraging the incredible talent that exists outside of schools.

We need to be fiercely focused on evidence-based solutions. We must ground everything we do in students’ aspirations, interests, and wellbeing and make sure we’re taking an equitable approach.

At Teach For America, we’re coaching our teaching corps in the science of reading, because literacy is foundational to all learning. We’re preparing our teachers to create classrooms that foster mental wellbeing and belonging, because research shows that these conditions must be met before children’s minds are open to learning. And we’re innovating to meet this moment by bringing accomplished college students to classrooms as tutors and mentors through our Ignite Fellowship while accelerating the leadership of our more than 63,000 alumni so they can have their greatest impact with and for students and communities.

As a country, we’ve solved big and complicated problems before, and I believe we can do it again. Rather than focus on the size and complexity of this challenge, our guiding question should be: What will it take to solve it? There is no time to lose.

About Teach For America

Teach For America works in partnership with 350 urban and rural communities across the country to expand educational opportunity for children. Founded in 1990, Teach For America recruits and develops a diverse corps of outstanding leaders who make an initial two-year commitment to teach in high-need schools and become lifelong leaders in the effort to end educational inequity. Today, Teach For America is a force of over 64,000 alumni and corps members working in over 9,000 schools nationwide in pursuit of profound systemic change. From classrooms to districts to state houses across America, they are reimagining education to realize the day when every child has an equal opportunity to learn, lead, thrive, and co-create a future filled with possibility. Teach For America is a proud member of the AmeriCorps national service network. For more information, visit and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

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Mercedes Blue | Managing Director, Communications & Public Affairs