While there has been a noticeable loss of learning in schools across the country since the COVID-19 pandemic began, the most striking sign of America’s education crisis can be seen in test scores. A report was published Monday morning.
The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) has analyzed the nation’s test scores and found that learning was declining in four of the four areas being tracked: fourth-grade reading; fourth-grade mathematics; eighth-grade reading; and eighth-grade algebra. According to the Wall Street Journal, this data comes after September data showed the “largest decline in fourth-grade reading scores in 1990” and the first-ever decrease in math.
According to data gathered from 50 states, the District of Columbia, and U.S. Department of Defense Education Activities schools, overall scores in math and reading have dropped sharply for fourth- and eighth-grade students since 2019. Another analysis of 26 large-city school districts showed similar declines.
In 2022, the average math score for eighth graders was 274 out of 500. This is 8 points less than in 2019. Reading scores declined by 3 points, to 260.
Neither did any state or jurisdiction see math gains in any grade. Neither did any of the 26 large districts that were included in the analysis. Utah was the only state in which the eighth-grade math score drop wasn’t statistically significant. Nationally, 38% of eighth graders scored below the basic achievement level in math. Basic mastery is considered partial mastery.
These numbers are alarming in general. There was some good news: fourth-grade reading has increased in Hawai’i and Louisiana as well as Florida.
“We insist on keeping schools open and guaranteeing in-person learning in 2020 because it was clear that there would be widespread harm for our students if they were locked out,” Governor Ron DeSantis said Monday morning. “Today’s results again prove that our decision was right.”
Louisiana’s Superintendent for Education, Dr. Cade Brumley noted the increase in fourth-grade reading scores but was not completely satisfied.
“I think we should celebrate the fact that we have the greatest growth in fourth-grade reading in the country with the literacy crisis here in our state,” Brumley stated. However, he added that the state shouldn’t chase shiny things or get distracted and should instead focus on the basics like reading and math, supporting educators and empowering parents.
The nation’s report card is released amid acknowledgments that there has not been a national conversation about the impact of COVID-19 policies on public schools.
In an interview with Jeb Bush, Jake Tapper of CNN said that “I must say I’m shocked that there hasn’t been a nationwide conversation about the damage done for kids by these school closures.” While many conservatives acknowledged that there had been an attempt to have a national discussion, they were dismissed and called “science deniers.”
In the wake of the pandemic coronavirus, which spread rapidly and mercilessly around the globe, many states and districts shut down schools across the country. Critics of school closings point out that there was no scientific evidence that school-aged children, especially elementary and middle-school students, were susceptible to the virus. To date, however, there is not been any evidence of a mass spreader event at any school that reopened during the peak of the pandemic.
It was revealed that top teachers’ unions in the country led the effort to close schools after the pandemic. They cited safety concerns that never came about.
Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, admitted that she had coached the Centers for Disease Control regarding the best talking points to use when discussing school closings following a request by the CDC.
HUGE: AFT’s @rweingarten tells CSPAN the Biden Admin “asked for language” they could use in the CDC’s guidance on school re-openings (which was used “nearly verbatim”).
“They asked us for language and we gave them language when they asked for it.” pic.twitter.com/CdYXpL9htu
— Tom Elliott (@tomselliott) May 18, 2021
We now have data that shows that these closures caused far more harm than good. Our students are now further behind because of this.