by Dr. Robert Luebke
Director of the Center for Effective Education, John Locke Foundation
The long-anticipated 2022 math and reading scores from National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) have been released. As expected, the NAEP scores, commonly known as the nation’s report card, were not good. The national scores reflected the largest declines ever recorded for fourth and eighth grade math. A statement from the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction on state scores is provided here.
Kevin Mahnken offers a succinct assessment of the results in this morning’s The 74:
National testing data released this morning reveals severe damage inflicted on student math and reading performance, reaffirming COVID-19’s ongoing educational toll. Even as some states have shown evidence of academic pandemic will not be easily restored.
Eighth-grade math scores on the NAEP fell by a jarring eight points since the test was last administered in 2019, while fourth-grade scores dropped by five points; both are the largest math declines ever recorded on the test. In reading, both fourth- and eighth-grade scores fell by three points, leaving them statistically unchanged since 1992, when NAEP was first rolled out.
As mentioned earlier, state test scores were also released. North Carolina’s reading and math scores also declined from 2019. Fourth Grade Math (236) and Reading (216) scores both declined five points from 2019. Even more disturbing were North Carolina’s eighth grade NAEP scores. Math scores (274) declined a full ten points from 2019 while Grade 8 Reading Scores declined 6 points.
These results fuel a million questions. Yes, the pandemic’s impact on scores been significant. The federal government has spent billions in pandemic relief, much of it targeted specifically on learning loss.
North Carolina will receive over $6 billion dollars in Covid relief aid. Today 49 percent of those funds remain unspent. At a time when the evidence suggests students need all the help they can get, too little money is being spent on remedial tutoring, while too much is being allocated to salaries.
Let’s not forget an important part of this discussion: the decision to pivot to remote learning. It’s not difficult to see that states that went to remote learning had some of the biggest test score declines. The closing of schools for extended periods was oftentimes a policy decision, not necessarily one related to the pandemic or considered the educational needs of students. We need to help those who need help, but also hold accountable those who didn’t further those ends or fulfill their responsibilities.