American 13-year-olds have posted another decline in math and reading testing, according to a Wednesday release of data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).
The NAEP, sometimes referred to as the “Nation’s Report Card,” measured the lowest math scores since 1990 and the worst reading scores since 2004.
Compared to previous years, average scores have seen a significant drop, both in the short term (since 2020) and over a decade.
In the most recent assessment, average scores for reading dropped by 4 points and for mathematics by 9 points compared to the 2019–20 school year. This represents an overall decline of 7 points in reading and 14 points in mathematics compared to a decade ago.
This decline was observed across the board, from lower- to higher-performing students, at all selected percentile levels in both reading and mathematics. The drop was larger for lower-performing students, particularly in mathematics.
In terms of student groups, the decline was widespread across different demographics, including by gender, eligibility for the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), and geographical regions for both subjects. Racial disparities also widened, particularly in mathematics, with black students experiencing a larger decrease in scores compared to white students.
Survey responses revealed some potential contributors to these results.
The percentage of students missing 5 or more days of school monthly doubled since 2020, from 5 percent to 10 percent. Additionally, a decrease in the number of students who read for fun almost daily was noted, and there was a significant decline in the number of students taking advanced mathematics courses, such as algebra, over the last decade.
The test results add yet more evidence that the disruptive school closures imposed by governments in response to the COVID-19 outbreak have caused permanent setbacks for American public school students.
However, the survey results cannot establish a definitive cause-and-effect relationship, as numerous factors can influence student achievement. This includes local educational policies and practices, teacher quality, and available resources.