The results from what's known as the country's report card provide the most definitive picture yet of the devastating impact of the pandemic on students.
U.S. students in most states and nearly all demographic groups are experiencing troubling setbacks in both math and reading, according to the prestigious national exam released Monday, which is the worst for millions of schoolchildren. It offers the most definitive indictment yet of the effects of the pandemic.
In mathematics, the results are particularly devastating, among the highest ever recorded in the National Assessment of Educational Progress, known as the National Report Card, which tested a broad sampling of fourth and eighth graders and dates back to the early 1990s. represents the steepest decline.
First test results since the pandemic began show that 8th-grade math scores have fallen in nearly every state. From 34% in 2019, only 26% of 8th graders were proficient in English. Grade 4 performance was marginally better, with 41 states declining. Fourth-grade math proficient students dropped from 41% to just 36%.
Reading scores also dropped in more than half of the states, continuing a downward trend that began before the pandemic. No state had a significant improvement in reading comprehension. Also, only 1 in 3 students met the proficiency standard. This means that our students have demonstrated their abilities and are well on their way to future success.
And for the country's most vulnerable students, the pandemic has left them even more. In many cases, the drop in test scores has been more pronounced and the climb to proficiency is now much more difficult.
"Let me be clear, the results on the country's report card today are appalling and unacceptable," said Education Secretary Miguel Cardona. "This is a crucial moment for education. How we respond to this will determine not only our recovery but our country's place in the world."
Administered by federal officials and considered more rigorous than many state tests, the test sampled nearly 450,000 fourth and eighth graders at over 10,000 schools between January and March. Did. Results are detailed for each state and over 20 large school districts.
|More than half of the states saw a decline in reading comprehension.|
The findings raise important questions about where the country goes from here. Last year, the federal government made its biggest investment in America's schools to help students catch up. School districts had to spend at least 20 percent of their funds on academic recovery, but that's the size of the problem. Some experts consider it inadequate.
The funding is set to expire in 2024, and research suggests it could take billions more dollars and years for students to properly recover. The test results could be seized as political material to revisit the debate over how long schools should be closed, just before the midterm elections. This issue has inspired many parents and teachers.
The disastrous results have highlighted how school closures are hurting students, but researchers are hastily drawing conclusions about whether states, where schools have stayed farther away for longer, have significantly worse outcomes. I was careful to put it out.
Decisions on how long to close schools often varied, even within states, depending on local school districts and virus transmission rates. Other factors, such as poverty levels and state-specific education policies, may also influence results. The paintings were mixed, and the performances varied by grade and subject matter and were not always clear-cut.
For example, in Texas, where many schools opened earlier, reading remained stable, but math fell as well as the national average.
California, which has stood out for its attention to reopening schools, saw scores drop slightly below the national average in several categories. Data from the school-tracking site Burbio showed that although Los Angeles had been shut down longer than any other region in the country, it was the only city that saw significant improvements in reading among eighth graders.
"It's hard to compare states, people are more likely to go to red states, blue states, and that's not the most useful framing," said Sean Reardon, a professor of education at Stanford University.
|Students entering high school may lack foundational algebra and geometry skills essential for more advanced math classes.|
Students today are doing better in math than they were 30 years ago. Over the past decade, math scores have been stable, with minor fluctuations here and there.
But this year, that stability was shattered.
In 8th grade math, the average score fell in all but one state. Seventeen states and the District of Columbia saw double-digit declines, including high-performing states such as Massachusetts and New Jersey and low-performing states such as Oklahoma and New Mexico. Utah was the only state where declines in 8th-grade math were not considered statistically significant.
States such as Delaware, Maryland, and Washington, D.C. saw double-digit declines in 4th and 8th-grade math.
Peggy Carr, the commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics, the Department of Education's research arm that administers exams, said that "8th grade is the gateway to taking more advanced mathematics courses," so older students were of particular concern. She said students may lack basic skills in algebra and geometry. This will be required in high school and for future careers in mathematics and science.
For example, compared to 2019, fewer 8th graders can measure the diagonal length of a rectangle or convert miles to yards. Perhaps because students received more help from their parents during the pandemic, reading was less affected.
Matthew Chingos, who heads the Center for Education Data and Policy at the Urban Institute, a research group, said the national results suggest that math scores in general tend to be highly dependent on what is taught in schools. said to be consistent with other data. , on the other hand, reading the score can also depend on "what happens at home."
Reading nevertheless persisted, with significant declines in more than half the states in both grades. Reading skills also declined in many states in 2019.
|Most school districts in large cities, including New York City, Dallas, and Miami-Dade, had stable reading scores.|
The sharp drop, wider gap
The pandemic has revealed deep and troubling inequalities that govern many aspects of American life, especially in education. In fourth grade, in both math and reading, students in the bottom 25th percentile lost more points compared to students at the top of their class, with lower performers falling even further behind.
Also, in fourth-grade math, black and Hispanic students who entered behind white and Asian students experienced a steeper decline in performance than those groups. Black and Hispanic students were more likely to attend segregated schools in poverty, and those schools stayed longer than wealthier schools during the pandemic, deepening the divide.
The impact was especially noticeable for struggling students. A survey included in the test found that only half of fourth graders with low math scores said they would have access to a computer at all times in the 2020-21 school year, compared to 80% of high performers.
Similarly, 70% said they could work in a quiet location for at least some time, compared to 90% of high performers. Most school districts in large cities, including New York City, Dallas, and Miami-Dade, had stable reading scores.
Raymond Hart, executive director of the Metropolitan School Council, which works with 77 urban public school districts, the nation's largest, said that the remedies the districts put in place could be making a difference. I saw it as a hopeful sign showing. "I believe that recovery and recovery are possible in students," he said.
But students in some districts, such as Cleveland and Memphis, could hardly afford to lose. Many were experiencing acute poverty and were already struggling with the pandemic, but this year saw significant declines at both grade levels and subjects.
In Detroit, where nearly one in two schoolchildren lives in poverty, just 6 percent of fourth graders were proficient in math in 2019. This year, that number has dropped to 3 percent.
Test scores aren't the only factor that matters to a child's future, but research demonstrates the importance of starting schoolwork early.
Students who cannot read well in elementary school are more likely to drop out of high school or fail to graduate on time. And 9th grade, which now has 8th graders who took exams in the spring, is seen as a crucial year for students to graduate from high school and go to college.
“Something needs to be done to better direct resources to historically underserved students,” said Dennis Forte, interim CEO of the Education Trust. ' said.