WASHINGTON (AP) — Math and reading scores among 13-year-olds in the United States fell to their lowest levels in decades, with math scores plummeting at an unprecedented rate, according to the results of a test dubbed the “Report Card” of the country is known.
The results, released Wednesday, are the latest measure of deep learning setbacks suffered during the pandemic. While previous tests revealed the magnitude of America learning lossthe latest test sheds light on the persistence of these setbacks and dampens hopes for a speedy academic recovery.
More than two years after most students returned to classroom instruction, there are still “worrying signs about student achievement,” said Peggy G. Carr, commissioner for the National Center for Education Statistics, a branch of the federal Department of Education.
“The ‘green shoots’ of academic recovery that we had hoped for have not materialized,” Carr said in a statement.
In the national sample of 13-year-old students, mean math scores fell by 9 points between 2020 and 2023. The reading results fell by 4 points. Officially dubbed the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the test was administered to 8,700 students in each subject from October to December last year.
Similar setbacks were reported last year when NAEP released broader findings showing the impact of the pandemic on America’s fourth- and eighth-grade students.
Scores in math and reading were declining before the pandemic, but the latest results show a precipitous decline, erasing previous gains in the years leading up to 2012. Scores on the math test, administered since 1973, are now at their lowest level since 1990. Reading literacy is at its lowest level since 2004.
Of particular concern to officials were the outsized declines among the lowest-performing students. The results show that students of all ability levels saw declines, but while stronger students saw declines of 6 to 8 points, lower-performing students saw declines of 12 to 14 points.
There were also differences by race. Students of almost all races and ethnicities experienced declines in math scores, but the largest declines were among Native American students, by 20 points, and black students, by 13 points. In comparison, the drop in white students was 6 points, while Asian students remained flat.
The setbacks from the pandemic appear to be continuing, even as schools across the US are spending billions of dollars to help students catch up. The federal government sent historical amounts of money to schools in 2021, allowing many to expand teachSummer courses and other recovery efforts.
But the country’s 13-year-olds, who were 10 when the pandemic began, are still struggling, Carr said.
“The strongest advice I have is that we have to keep at it,” she said. “There’s a long road ahead of us.”
Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said the results confirmed what the Biden administration had always known: “That the pandemic would have a devastating impact on student learning across the country and that it would take years of effort and investment to reverse the damage and fix.” the 11-year decline that preceded it.”
Still, Cardona said he was heartened by signs of improvement elsewhere, as some states have returned to pre-pandemic levels on their own math and reading tests.
The exam is designed to measure basic skills in math and reading. Students were asked to read passages and identify the main idea or find specific information. In math, they were challenged to do simple multiplication and explore basic geometry, such as calculating the area of a square. Most of the questions were multiple choice questions.
When asked about their reading habits, fewer students than ever say they read for fun every day. Just 14% said they read daily for pleasure – which has been linked to better social and academic outcomes – compared to 27% in 2012. Almost a third of students said they never or hardly ever read for fun, compared to 22% in 2012.
The test also revealed a worrying increase student absenteeism. The proportion of students missing five or more days of school in a month has doubled since 2020, reaching 10% this year. According to the results, students with fewer absenteeism days achieved higher average scores in both reading and math.
The Associated Press education team receives support from the Carnegie Corporation of New York. The AP is solely responsible for all content.