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New & Noteworthy: June 2021

This month we are reading a new OECD report about how curriculum can be made more inclusive to meet specific needs of diverse learners; the latest NAEP results which show discouraging levels of student performance in science across all grades tested; a new school funding analysis from the EdWeek Research Center; and the 2021 edition of The Condition of Education, which includes two spotlights on the educational impact of the pandemic.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has released a new report, Adapting Curriculum to Bridge Equity Gaps: Toward an Inclusive Curriculum, which discusses how jurisdictions are attempting to revise, upgrade, and adapt curriculum to be more relevant and responsive to student needs. The report defines equality, equity, and inclusion in the context of curriculum design; describes challenges faced by jurisdictions; and offers specific strategies and examples as to how jurisdictions prioritized equity in curriculum design.

The results of the 2019 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) were disappointing. Science scores declined for 4th graders and stayed flat for 8th and 12th graders compared to 2015, when the test was last given. The science exams covered three content areas: physical science, life science, and earth and space sciences. Only about a third of 4th and 8th graders and less than a quarter of 12th graders scored at the proficient level. NAEP tests are conducted every two years with a representative sample of U.S. students to test their knowledge in reading and math and every few years in a range of other subjects. Perhaps most troubling about this latest release was the fact that students scoring at the lowest performance levels (i.e., those scoring at the 10th and 25th percentiles) saw steeper downturns than their higher performing peers.  

Earlier this week, the EdWeek Research Center released an analysis of state education funding using 2018 federal spending data. Scores were based on four measures of how much money was spent and four indicators of the equity of funding; however, the analysis does not take into account how the money was spent by states. Overall, the U.S. earned a score of 63.7 percent for overall spending and 88.4 percent for equity which leads to a combined score of 76.1 percent. This represents a slight increase compared to last year. The top-scoring state was New Jersey, which also had the highest rank in the spending measures. Maryland earned the top grade for equity. With the exception of Wyoming, nine of the ten top-performing states are in the Northeast or Mid-Atlantic regions.

The National Center for Education Statistics released the 2021 edition of The Condition of Education, which includes dozens of indicators on the U.S. education system. For this latest edition, most data were collected prior to 2020 and therefore prior to the coronavirus pandemic. However, two spotlight indicators present early findings about how the pandemic impacted the educational experience of U.S. students during fall 2020. The first looks at the number of elementary and secondary students who shifted to distance learning and the availability of computers and internet access for these students. The second examines changes in postsecondary education plans as a result of the pandemic.