Posted on June 22, 2023

National Test Scores Plunge, With Still No Sign of Pandemic Recovery

Donna St. George, Washington Post, June 21, 2023

National test scores plummeted for 13-year-olds, according to new data that shows the single largest drop in math in 50 years and no signs of academic recovery following the disruptions of the pandemic.

Student scores plunged nine points in math and four points in reading on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), often regarded as the nation’s report card. The release Wednesday reflected testing in fall 2022, comparing it to the same period in 2019, before the pandemic began.

“These results show that there are troubling gaps in the basic skills of these students,” said Peggy G. Carr, commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), which administers the tests. The new data, she said, “reinforces the fact that recovery is going to take some time.”

The average math score is now the same as it was in 1990, while the average reading score is the same as it was in 2004.

Hardest hit were the lowest-performing students. In math, their scores showed declines of 12 to 14 points, while their highest-performing peers fell just six points. The pattern for reading was similar, with lowest performers seeing twice the decline of the highest ones.

Students from all regions of the country and of all races and ethnicities lost ground in math. Reading was more split. Scores dropped for Black, multiracial and White students. But Hispanic, Asian, American Indian and Alaska Native students were described as “not measurably different.”

Most of those tested were 10 years old, in fourth or fifth grade, at the onset of the pandemic. They were in seventh or eighth grade as they took the tests.

“This is more than alarming,” said Carey Wright, former state superintendent of education in Mississippi and a member of the National Assessment Governing Board, which sets policy for the tests. {snip}


They are designed to capture long-term trends, with the reading test going back to 1971 and the math exam back to 1973. After student progress for many years, their scores began to decline after 2012, with steeper drops after the pandemic’s onset.


The share of students who reported “never” or “hardly ever” reading for fun jumped by 9 points, to 31 percent.