Oct 24, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Test scores' record plunge

Illustration of a calculator with downward arrows flashing on the screen.

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

Test scores known as the Nation's Report Card, released on Monday, show the largest math declines ever recorded for fourth- and eighth-graders.

Driving the news: Math scores declined for those grades in nearly every state and district between 2019 and 2022, according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) results.

  • During those COVID years, reading scores also fell in most states, according to the Education Department, which released the scores.

Why it matters: COVID and the resulting school closures spared no state or region. The pandemic resulted in historic learning setbacks for America's children, erasing decades of academic progress and widening racial disparities, AP reports.

Between the lines: Reading scores dropped to 1992 levels. Nearly four in 10 eighth-graders failed to grasp basic math concepts.

  • Not a single state saw a notable improvement in average test scores.

Peggy Carr, commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics, a branch of the Education Department, told AP: "In NAEP, when we experience a 1- or 2-point decline, we're talking about it as a significant impact on a student's achievement. In math, we experienced an 8-point decline."

  • Researchers think of a 10-point gain or drop as equivalent to roughly a year of learning.

By the numbers: The average math score for fourth-graders fell five points since 2019 — from 241 to 236, the Education Department said.

  • Eighth graders dropped eight points in math, from 282 to 274.
  • In reading, average scores for both grades fell three points — from 220 to 217 for fourth grade, and from 263 to 260 for eighth grade.

What's next: The "devastating" findings "raise significant questions about where the country goes from here," the New York Times reports.

Go deeper: Reading highlights ... Math highlights.

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