'Nation's Report Card' Offers 'Sobering' Pandemic Update

Kids' math, reading scores took an unprecedented hit over the past 2 years
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 1, 2022 8:14 AM CDT
Kids' Math, Reading Scores Took Huge Pandemic Hit
Stock photo.   (Getty Images/takasuu)

It's undisputed that kids had a rough time of it during the pandemic. Now, results from national tests show just how rough, at least in terms of how their academic skills have suffered. The "nation's report card"—ie, the National Assessment of Educational Progress—was released Thursday, and results weren't great for math and reading, per the Washington Post: Between early 2020 and early 2022, when the tests were administered to nearly 15,000 9-year-olds (mostly fourth-graders), students saw their math scores drop seven points—the first time a decline has happened there since the NAEP started offering the tests in the early '70s—while reading scores fell five points, the biggest drop in three decades. Federal officials note this is the first official study nationwide on student achievement that compares pre-pandemic scores to present-day numbers, per the AP.

The backsliding affected nearly all socioeconomic levels and races. White students saw a five-point dip in their math scores, while Hispanic students lost eight points, and Black students 13. Students from all three of those groups saw a six-point drop in reading scores. Students who were already low performers were hit especially hard, showing a 10- to 12-point drop in reading and math. "These results are sobering," Peggy Carr, commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics, which administers the federal tests, says. She adds, per the New York Times: "I was taken aback by the scope and the magnitude of the decline." One interesting outlier: relatively unchanged reading scores in the West, cities, and rural areas. Carr calls that finding "especially significant ... when you consider the extreme crises cities are dealing with during the pandemic," per the Post.

The results have re-upped the conversation about just how detrimental, in an academic sense, the coronavirus pandemic was to students, who've struggled through more than two years of school shutdowns, remote learning, quarantining, and school staff shortages. So where do we go from here? The Post notes that "how long it might take to catch up is unclear," though Dr. Andrew Ho, an education professor at Harvard, puts some estimates to it, telling the Times that every point lost equates to about three weeks of extra learning. That means a student who lost 12 points on a test would need about nine months to get up to speed, and they still wouldn't be completely caught up with more advanced students. The pandemic "erased the progress, and it exacerbated the inequality," he says, adding: "We have our work cut out for us." (More pandemic stories.)

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