A recent report from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, a congressionally-mandated program overseen by the National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES) within the U.S. Department of Education, showed that students across the U.S. have experienced alarming setbacks in math and reading scores1. More than ever this holiday season, our program is committed to providing girls with robust, high-quality mentorship and an encouraging support system of strong female role models to bolster our girls’ confidence inside the classroom.

A majority of states and cities, including Pittsburgh and Boston, witnessed drops in fourth- and eighth-graders math and reading scores between 2019 and 2022. In mathematics, the national average score declines were the largest ever recorded in that subject2. Additionally, children from under-resourced communities felt the devastating impacts from COVID-19 even further.

“The results show the profound toll on student learning during the pandemic…” said NCES Commissioner Peggy G. Carr. “The results also underscore the importance of instruction and the role of schools in both students’ academic growth and their overall wellbeing. It’s clear we all need to come together—policymakers and community leaders at every level—as partners in helping our educators, children and families succeed.”

Furthermore, many children have faced challenges when it comes to building social-emotional skills as a result of distancing and stay-at-home orders, which pose long-term consequences3. Since our founding, SWSG has successfully implemented the widely-recognized need for social-emotional learning (SEL) opportunities for young girls who are under-resourced.

Research has demonstrated the benefits of SEL, documenting positive effects on academic, interpersonal and mental health outcomes. Children who are able to effectively manage their thinking, attention and behavior are more likely to have better grades and higher standardized test scores4. Girls in grades 3-5 meet weekly with college mentors at program sites across Boston and Pittsburgh, where they provide them with a space to work toward positive outcomes

This year’s curriculum theme, Girlforce, focuses on goal setting and future orientation. During sessions, girls engage with various activities, games, role models and leadership opportunities geared toward the Girlforce theme while also working toward improved social-emotional skills. Over 85% of girls in our program report having increased confidence as a result of participating in our program.

“If left unaddressed, this could alter the trajectories and life opportunities of a whole cohort of young people, potentially reducing their abilities to pursue rewarding and productive careers in mathematics, science, and technology,” said Daniel J. McGrath, the acting NCES associate commissioner for assessment.

While we endeavor to put our girls’ lives on track for success, we thank community leaders and supporters like you who ultimately give back to them. Through it all, our girls have continued to show an incredible amount of perseverance and resilience. SWSG is committed to bringing out the best and brightest qualities in our girls, generate a sense of security and safety for all, and ensure that every girl and woman realize her inner strengths to dream and do—for this holiday season and beyond.


1. https://www.nytimes.com/2022/10/24/us/math-reading-scores-pandemic.html

2. https://www.nationsreportcard.gov/

3. https://www.cdc.gov/mentalhealth/stress-coping/parental-resources/childhood/index.html

4. https://www.docsity.com/en/navigating-sel-from-the-inside-out/8798486/