Oct 25, 2022 - News

Virginia students saw some of the biggest test score declines in the country

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

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

Virginia students saw some of the steepest drops in the country on reading and math tests administered nationwide last year.

Why it matters: The results of the closely watched federal testing program, the National Assessment of Educational Progress, offer one of the most detailed looks yet at how students fared during the COVID-19 pandemic and how they compare to their peers in other states.

The big picture: Test scores declined in every state in the country, the results show, including the largest math declines ever recorded.

  • Meanwhile, reading scores dropped to 1992 levels.

But the drop in Virginia, where students have traditionally performed well on the test, was particularly sharp.

  • Virginia went from having the second-highest average scores in the country in fourth grade math in 2019 to being tied for 20th place.
  • Only Delaware and D.C. saw steeper drops.

In fourth grade reading, Virginia fell from seventh place to 33rd, tied with California, New York, Texas and Tennessee.

Average scores on the NAEP in Virginia
Data: The Nation's Report Card; Chart: Axios Visuals

What they're saying: Gov. Youngkin called the scores a wake-up call during a Monday morning press conference.

  • He urged parents to sign their children up for free online tutoring if they're struggling and called out Richmond and Henrico for sitting on $100 million each in federal recovery funds.
  • "Every parent in Virginia is now acutely aware that when my predecessors lowered educational standards, those lowered expectations were met," Youngkin said. "These actions were compounded by keeping children out of school for extended and unnecessary periods."

Yes, but: Experts cautioned against using the results to relitigate pandemic-era school closure policies, per the New York Times, which notes the results were not always clear cut.

  • California, for instance, took a more cautious approach to reopening but saw a drop in scores on par with Florida, where schools reopened sooner.

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