Frederick Hess and Jenn Hatfield dissect the latest national public school math and reading test scores for National Review Online.

The 2015 results were dismal. Eighth-grade reading and math scores fell, as did fourth-grade math scores. Fourth-grade reading scores stayed flat — the closest thing to a bright spot one could find. In 22 states, eighth-graders did worse on the math test than they did in 2013; no state saw its score improve. In eighth-grade reading, scores were down in eight states and up in one. Overall, just 36 percent of fourth-graders and 34 percent of eighth-graders were deemed proficient in reading. In math, the figures were 40 percent of fourth-graders and 33 percent of eighth-graders.

Viewed against more than two decades of prior scores, these results can only be described as a train wreck. They were so disturbing mostly because we’ve gotten so used to steady improvement in NAEP scores. Never before had fourth-grade math scores declined. Eighth-grade reading scores hadn’t fallen since 1996. Fourth-grade reading scores haven’t dipped since 2003, or eighth-grade reading since 2005. In other words, the widespread carnage on display this year is wholly unprecedented.

The Obama administration, which has bragged about the efficacy of its federally fueled school-reform agenda, immediately moved to aggressive damage control.