Education in crisis: a call to action

Last month, a comprehensive study conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics, the federal agency that administers an annual assessment to track academic progress, showed that, as a result of the pandemic, there have been precipitous declines in math and reading scores going back two decades. The tests were given to a national sample of 14,800 nine-year-olds and were compared with the results of tests taken by the same age group in early 2020, just before the pandemic and resulting school closures.

The New York Times reported, “The declines spanned almost all races and income levels and were markedly worse for the lowest-performing students. While top performers in the 90th percentile showed a modest drop—three points in math—students in the bottom 10th percentile dropped by 12 points in math, four times the impact.”

While gaps in academic performance have been increasing between high and low performers in recent years, this study shows that the gulf is growing wider, and the students at the lower percentiles are losing more ground, faster. Peggy G. Carr, the commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics, remarked, “I was taken aback by the scope and the magnitude of the decline.”

In terms of our Horizons students, we are also seeing alarming results. Our Program Director, Ruth Castillo, and Community Liaison, Jessica Nuñez-Hernandez, did an analysis of academic performance after our 2022 summer program. Overall our students improved their reading and math skills by seven to 13 weeks during their time at Horizons, which is encouraging. However, as the charts below show, there are still huge gaps in terms of reading and math at grade level:

All of this brings into sharp focus the immense need for programs like Horizons to help our students catch up. Without a strong academic foundation, students from under-resourced communities will face greater challenges as they move ahead through school. Programs like Horizons, with proven track records, need your involvement and support. With our annual fundraiser, Wine & Dine, around the corner, this is an opportunity for our supporters to truly make a difference.