Average test scores for U.S. 13-year-olds have declined in reading and have fallen sharply in math since 2020, according to new data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress.
Average scores, from tests given last fall, decreased by 4 points in reading and 9 points in math, compared to tests given in the 2019-2020 school year, and are the lowest in decades. The declines in reading were most pronounced for underperforming students, but decreased across all percentiles.
Math scores were even more disappointing. On a 500-point scale, declines ranged from 6 to 8 points for middle and high achieving students, to 12 to 14 points for low achieving students.
The mathematical results also showed ever-widening gaps based on gender and race. Scores decreased by 11 points for female students compared to the 2020 results, compared with a 7-point decrease for male students.
Among black students, math scores dropped 13 points, while white students saw a 6-point drop. Compared to the 35-point gap between black and white students in 2020, the disparity has widened to 42 points.
« Unfinished learning continues to take its toll on students of all grades and subjects, » she said Denise Forte, president and CEO of The Education Trust, a non-profit advocacy group. “And this is especially true for Black and Latino students, English learners, and students from low-income backgrounds who have felt the brunt of the pandemic-related upheavals and uncertainties,”
The latest results are from Assessment of long-term trends NAEPtraditionally administered every four years by the National Center for Education Statistics.
In releasing the data, US Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said the scores strongly reflect losses caused by the disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has left schools closed for more than a year in many cases. The findings, he said in a statement, confirmed predictions that « the pandemic would have a devastating impact on student learning across the country and that it will take years of effort and investment to reverse the damage. »
While the scores show a decline from pre-pandemic years, the results also show that there are other factors at play. The drop is even more dramatic when compared to scores a decade ago: average scores dropped by 7 points in reading and 14 points in math.
The Department of Education says plans are underway to address learning loss.
« Schools have pledged nearly 60 percent of America’s bailout funds to address lost learning time and accelerate academic recovery, » Cardona said in a statement Wednesday. These funds can be used for things like hiring more teachers, counselors, and support staff, or providing more one-on-one tutoring and support for students.