Authored by Terri Wu via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours),
National math test scores in fourth and eighth grades showed the biggest drop since a national testing program began in 1990, and the reading level for the same grades reverted to a level from three decades ago.
Eighth-grade math performance has dropped eight points since 2019, and about a third of students in both grades can’t read at the minimum required level, according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) report.
NAEP, also known as the “Nation’s Report Card,” is the only national and continuing assessment program administered by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) of the Department of Education. The Nation’s Report Card is the gold standard for measuring student academic achievements. The results released on Oct. 24 were based on tests administered in the spring.
Peggy Carr, the NCES commissioner who presented the math and reading test results, said the eight-point decline in eighth-grade math was “troubling” and “significant.” According to her, a two and three-point drop is considered significant at the national level.
She began her presentation with contexts of the testing results: the pandemic, reduced in-person learning, and increased mental health needs of students. She said she would have to talk to reading experts to find out why students’ reading performance lost 30 years of progress.
“We are talking about a really serious erosion of children’s capacities to read and count in the next generation of the workforce,” Beverly Perdue, former governor of North Carolina and chair of the National Assessment Governing Board, which sets policies and achievement levels for the Nation’s Report Card, said during a media event at the National Press Club in Washington on Oct. 2. “So this becomes a global economic issue for America.”
U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona called the results “appalling” and “unacceptable.”
“This is a moment of truth for education,” he told reporters in a pre-release briefing on Oct. 21.
In a statement, Perdue said students’ learning gaps “predated—but were exacerbated by the pandemic.”
Dr. Vicki Alger, a policy adviser for the Heartland Institute, agreed.
“We should be careful not to make COVID school closures the whole story. School closures made an already bad situation worse. Alarming proportions of students are still not proficient in the core subjects of math and reading,” she told The Epoch Times.
“We’re also seeing the continuing pattern of lower proficiency rates among eighth-graders compared to fourth-graders. We would expect to see children’s subject-level mastery improving the longer they’re in school, but we’re still seeing the opposite instead.”
Virginia Takes Actions
The Nation’s Report Card also provides a platform for peer comparisons across states. Virginia saw the sharpest decline in the nation in fourth-grade reading scores, 13.6 points since 2017 and three times the national average.
“We must acknowledge the glaring reality that we face together: our nation’s children have experienced catastrophic learning loss, and Virginia students are among the hardest hit,” Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin said at a press event in Richmond on Oct. 24. “We also must clearly recognize that the underpinnings to this catastrophic performance were decisions that were made long before we had ever heard of COVID-19.”
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Forget Ron DeSantis: Walt Disney has a much bigger problem
The company’s political woes are a sideshow to the one key issue Bob Iger has to solve.
Walt Disney has a massive, but solvable, problem.
The company's current skirmishes with Florida Gov. DeSantis get a lot of headlines, but they're not having a major impact on the company's bottom line.
DeSantis has made Walt Disney (DIS) - Get Free Report a target in what he calls his war on woke, an effort to win right-wing support as he tries to secure the Republican Party nomination for president.
That effort has generated plenty of press and multiple lawsuits tied to the governor's takeover of the former Reedy Creek Improvement District, Disney's legislated self-governance operation. But it has not hurt revenue at the company's massive Florida theme-park complex.
Disney Chief Executive Bob Iger addressed the matter during the company's third-quarter-earnings call, without directly mentioning DeSantis.
"Walt Disney World is still performing well above precovid levels: 21% higher in revenue and 29% higher in operating income compared to fiscal 2019," he said.
And "following a number of recent changes we've implemented, we continue to see positive guest-experience ratings in our theme parks, including Walt Disney World, and positive indicators for guests looking to book future visits."
The theme parks are not Disney's problem. The death of the movie business is, however, a hurdle that Iger has yet to show that the company has a plan to clear.
Disney needs a plan to monetize content
In 2019 Walt Disney drew in more $11 billion in global box office, or $13 billion when you add in the former Fox properties it also owns. In that year seven Mouse House films crossed the billion-dollar threshold in theaters, according to data from Box Office Mojo.
This year, the company will struggle to reach half that and it has no billion-dollar films, with "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3" closing its theatrical run at $845 million globally.
(That's actually good for third place this year, as only "Barbie" and "The Super Mario Bros. Movie" have broken the billion-dollar mark and they may be the only two films to do that this year.)
In the precovid world Disney could release two Pixar movies, three Marvel films, a live-action remake of an animated classic, and maybe one other film that each would be nearly guaranteed to earn $1 billion at the box office.
That's simply not how the movie business works anymore. While theaters may remain part of Disney's plan to monetize its content, the past isn't coming back. Theaters may remain a piece of the movie-release puzzle, but 2023 isn't an anomaly or a bad release schedule.
Consumers have big TVs at home and they're more than happy to watch most films on them.
Disney owns the IP but charges too little
People aren't less interested in Marvel and Star Wars; they're just getting their fix from Disney+ at an absurdly low price.
Over the past couple of months through the next few weeks, I will have watched about seven hours of premium Star Wars content and five hours of top-tier Marvel content with "Ahsoka" and "Loki" respectively.
Before the covid pandemic, I gladly would have paid theater prices for each movie in those respective universes. Now, I have consumed about six movies worth of premium content for less than the price of two movie tickets.
By making its premium content television shows available on a service that people can buy for $7.99 a month Disney has devalued its most valuable asset, its intellectual property.
Consumers have shown that they will pay the $10 to $15 cost of a movie ticket to see what happens next in the Marvel Cinematic Universe or the Star Wars galaxy. But the company has offered top-tier content from those franchises at a lower price.
Iger needs to find a way to replace billions of dollars in lost box office, but charging less for the company's content makes no sense.
Now, some fans likely won't pay triple the price for Disney+. But if it were to bundle a direct-to-consumer ESPN along with content that currently gets released to movie theaters, Disney might create a package that it can price in a way that reflects the value of its IP.
Consumers want Disney's content and they will likely pay more for it. Iger simply has to find a way to make that happen.
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