New federal data reveals that 9-year-olds’ reading and math scores have declined significantly across the board since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The results show the largest average score decline in reading since 1990, and the first-ever score decline in mathematics, the National Center for Education Statistics said.
In other words, no group of high- or low-performing students was spared from a decline in performance by the pandemic and remote schooling.
“The big takeaway is that there are no increases in achievement in either of the subjects for any student group in this assessment. There were only declines or stagnant scores for the nation’s 9-year-olds,” said Peggy Carr, commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics.
And the pandemic’s disruptions to education are the reason.
“It’s clear that COVID-19 shocked American education and stunted the academic growth of this age group of children,” Carr said. “We don’t make this statement lightly.”
Her agency’s experts agreed that “no other factor could have had such a dramatic influence on student achievement in a relatively short time period,” Carr said.
The data also confirms the predicted widening of the achievement gap – particularly between Black and white students – during the pandemic. And it shows significant declines in reading and math scores for disadvantaged students, who were hit hardest by widespread pandemic-related school closures.
“The achievement gap between white and Black students widened in 2022 because Black students experienced a sharper decline in test scores than their white counterparts,” Carr said. And achievement for Black children is “significantly worse than their counterparts from two years ago,” she said.
“In fact, the declines from this assessment show that students in 2022 are performing at a similar level to two decades ago,” said Carr, adding that the report shows even high-performing student scores declined for the first time in the past decade. “They also represent the first-ever decline in mathematics and one of the largest-ever declines in reading since the long-term trend assessment was first given in the 1970s.”
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