U.S. students in most states and across almost all demographic groups have experienced troubling setbacks in both math and reading, according to an authoritative national exam released on Monday, offering the most definitive indictment yet of the pandemic’s impact on millions of schoolchildren.
In math, the results were especially devastating, representing the steepest declines ever recorded on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, known as the nation’s report card, which tests a broad sampling of fourth and eighth graders and dates to the early 1990s.
In the test’s first results since the pandemic began, math scores for eighth graders fell in nearly every state. A meager 26 percent of eighth graders were proficient, down from 34 percent in 2019.
Fourth graders fared only slightly better, with declines in 41 states. Just 36 percent of fourth graders were proficient in math, down from 41 percent.
a downward trend that had begun even before the pandemic. No state showed sizable improvement in reading. And only about one in three students met proficiency standards, a designation that means students have demonstrated competency and are on track for future success.
billions more dollars and several years for students to properly recover.
The test results could be seized as political fodder — just before the midterms — to re-litigate the debate over how long schools should have stayed closed, an issue that galvanized many parents and teachers.
The bleak results underscored how closing schools hurt students, but researchers cautioned against drawing fast conclusions about whether states where schools stayed remote for longer had significantly worse results.
Decisions about how long to keep schools closed often varied even within states, depending on the local school district and virus transmission rates. And other factors, such as poverty levels and a state’s specific education policies, may also influence results.
The picture was mixed, and performance varied by grade level and subject matter in ways that were not always clear cut.