Students' Reading, Math Scores Drop Further

Basic skills performance had been falling since before the pandemic
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 21, 2023 7:35 PM CDT
Test Scores Show No Slowing of Reading, Math Declines
Students work in the library at DHH Lengel Middle School in Pottsville, Pennsylvania in March 2022.   (Lindsey Shuey/Republican-Herald via AP, File)

National test scores for 13-year-olds released Wednesday showed setbacks in mastering basic skills, providing evidence that schools and students have not overcome the lost learning caused by the pandemic. The National Assessment of Educational Progress, which conducted the tests last fall, reported major drops of nine points in math scores and four points in reading from three years earlier, before the start of the pandemic, the Washington Post reports. The results sparked serious concern across the education field. "This is more than alarming," said an educator who's on the board that sets test policy, adding, "We really need to be concerned about what is happening here."

The declines in what's been called the nation's report card put the average reading score back to where it was in 2004 and the average math score back to the 1990 level. In both subjects, scores dropped the most for students already at the bottom of the scale. Students of all races and ethnicities fell in math. But reading scores varied, with Black, multiracial, and white students posting declines while Hispanic, Asian, American Indian, and Alaska Native students pretty much held steady, per the Post. Scores fell 11 points for female students overall and 7 for male students, per CNN. Roughly 8,700 students in 460 schools took the test.

The drop in scores has been pronounced since the pandemic first disrupted schools, but student performance already was in decline, per the New York Times; the questions are designed to spot long-term trends. Action is needed, said a junior high school math teacher from Colorado and member of the governing board. Researchers and policy analysts should help identify the most effective methods for teachers and schools, said Mark Miller, who considers the situation urgent. "It's like the alarm has gone off," he said. (History and civics scores are at a record low.)

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