According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress — known as the “nation’s report card” — the COVID-19 pandemic led to a major drop in American students’ reading and math test scores. NAEP released its 2022 data Monday, which looked at proficiency in the two subject among U.S. fourth and eighth graders.
“In 2022, the average reading score at both fourth and eighth grade decreased by 3 points compared to 2019,” NAEP reported. “The average fourth-grade mathematics score decreased by 5 points … the average eighth-grade mathematics score decreased by 8 points.” According to NAEP, these are historic lows.
“At fourth grade, the average reading score was lower than all previous assessment years going back to 2005 and was not significantly different in comparison to 1992. At eighth grade, the average reading score was lower compared to all previous assessment years going back to 1998 and was not significantly different compared to 1992,” NAEP said. “The average fourth-grade mathematics score… was lower than all previous assessment years going back to 2005; the average score was one point higher compared to 2003. The average eighth-grade mathematics score… was lower than all previous assessment years going back to 2003.”
On Twitter, NAEP noted “the declining 8th-grade math results are particularly worrisome.” Daniel McGrath, the acting associate commissioner for assessment at the National Center for Education Statistics, said this is because “grade is a pivotal moment in students’ mathematics education.”
“Eighth grade is when students is when students develop key mathematics skills for further learning and potential careers in mathematics and science,” McGrath was quoted as saying. “If left unaddressed, declining mathematics achievement could alter the trajectories and life opportunities of a whole cohort of young people.”
While concerning, the drop in reading and math scores compared to before the pandemic are hardly surprising. The pandemic upended every facet of life and left millions learning from home for months or more. The results released Monday reveal the depth of those setbacks, and the size of the challenge facing schools as they help students catch up.
“The results show the profound toll on student learning during the pandemic. … They underscore the importance of instruction and the role of schools in both students’ academic growth and their overall wellbeing,” NCES Commissioner Peggy Carr was quoted as saying. “We all need to come together — policymakers and community leaders at every level — as partners in helping our educators, children and families succeed.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.