The NAEP compared the students’ academic achievement during the COVID-19 pandemic to pre-pandemic performance on the 2019 NAEP Reading assessment, as well as to previous assessments dating back to 1992, the report said.
For the first time since 2019, national standardized tests were given to students between January and March of this year. The results of these tests saw no improvement in scores since the last testing period. In fact, the national math score fell the most in the test’s history since 1969 and reading scores fell to 1992 levels.
More than 60% of fourth-graders tested at the “basic and below” level for math and reading, and 73% of eighth-graders tested at “basic and below” for math. Nearly 70% of eighth-graders tested at “basic and below for reading, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
“The results released today from the National Assessment of Educational Progress are appalling, unacceptable, and a reminder of the impact that this pandemic has had on our learners,” Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said in a statement Monday. “The data also represents a call to action for the important work we must do now for our students—especially those who have suffered the most during the pandemic.”
This standardized test is typically given every two years, and before the pandemic, scores were stagnant. The federal exam sampled nearly 450,000 students in fourth and eighth grade from more than 10,000 schools, the New York Times reported.
Several large school districts saw scores that fell by more than 10 points, which analysts equate to losing a full year of learning.
Cleveland saw the most significant drop of 16 points in fourth-grade reading and a 15-point drop in fourth-grade math. Baltimore in Maryland and Shelby County in Tennessee saw similar drops. The data does show racial and economic inequities.
The NAEP report card said that a special COVID-19 module was added to the survey questionnaires to collect self-reported information about students’ learning experiences during the pandemic.
“Although comparisons in students’ performance shown below are made based on self-reported student and teacher characteristics and educational experiences, these results cannot be used to establish a cause-and-effect relationship between the characteristics or experiences and student achievement,” the NAEP stated in the report.
About 57% of students recalled experiencing remote learning during the last school year, but the report said the results do not show a clear link between remote learning and scores dropping by stating “the NAEP is not to identify the causes of performance differences.”
Some school districts have since implemented summer school and tutoring programs to try to offset the drop in scores.