Math and Reading Scores Down Nationwide

math and reading
School supplies | Image by Tero Vesalainen

Results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) assessment indicate that mathematics and reading scores for 13-year-olds have decreased nationwide since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The National Center for Education Statistics administered the NAEP exam to a sample of 8,700 13-year-old students to assess their competency in mathematics and reading. The testing occurred from October to December during the 2022-23 school year and showed declines in both categories.

The average scores for 13-year-olds indicated a four-point dropoff in reading since testing performed in 2020 and a nine-point dropoff in mathematics. Over the last decade, testing has shown a seven-point decline in reading and a 14-point dropoff in mathematics.

Such metrics are being felt in big-city school districts like Dallas ISD, where only 41% of students scored at grade level on last year’s STAAR exams. The troubled district also managed to only graduate roughly four-fifths of its graduating Class of 2022 on time.

Peggy Carr, the commissioner of the NCES, spoke on the phone with reporters and said there were gaps in academic skills due to the pandemic.

“Most of these students were 10-years-old when the pandemic hit, and schools were disrupted,” said Carr, per The Dallas Morning News. “The bottom line is these results show that there are gaps in basic skills.”

The assessment asked students how frequently they missed school during the past month prior to the assessment.

Results found a “decrease in the percentages of 13-year-old students reporting having missed none to 2 days in the past month compared to 2020. Conversely, there were increases in the percentages of 13-year-old students who reported missing 3 or 4 days and students who reported missing 5 or more days in the last month,” according to the study.

Additionally, the study found “[t]he percentage of students who reported missing 5 or more days doubled from 5 percent in 2020 to 10 percent in 2023.”

The study found that “students with fewer missed school days generally had higher average scores in 2023 than students with more missed school days.”

U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said in a press release that these results confirmed concerns the Biden administration had with education during the pandemic.

“The latest data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress is further evidence of what the Biden-Harris administration recognized from Day One: that the pandemic would have a devastating impact on students’ learning across the country and that it would take years of effort and investment to reverse the damage as well as address the 11-year decline that preceded it.”

Cardona also said that many schools are still attempting to accelerate learning and are using some of the taxpayer money allocated o the American Rescue Plan.

“Schools have committed nearly 60 percent of their American Rescue Plan funds to address lost learning time and accelerate academic recovery by hiring more teachers, counselors, and support staff, providing more tutoring and one-on-one support to students, and extending learning time through high quality afterschool and summer learning programs.”

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