September 28, 2022

The pandemic wiped out two decades of progress in math and reading

National test results released Thursday starkly showed the pandemic’s devastating effects on US schoolchildren, with 9-year-olds’ performance in math and reading falling to levels two decades ago.

This year marks the first time the National Assessment of Educational Progress has begun tracking the achievement of 9-year-olds in the 1970s Math lost ground, and reading scores fell by the largest margin in more than 30 years.

The declines spanned nearly all races and income levels and were markedly worse for low-performing students. While top performers in the 90th percentile showed a modest drop—three points in math—students in the bottom 10th percentile dropped 12 points in math, a fourfold effect.

Peggy G., commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics, the federal agency that administers the test earlier this year. “I was shocked by the scope and scale of the decline,” Carr said. The tests were given to a national sample of 14,800 9-year-olds and compared to results from tests taken by the same age group in early 2020, just before the pandemic hit the United States.

High and low performers were different before the pandemic, but now, “students at the bottom are falling off faster,” Dr. Carr said.

In math, black students lost 13 points, compared to five points among white students, widening the gap between the two groups. Research has documented that school closings have had a profound effect on low-income students and black and Hispanic students. There were more opportunities to pursue distance learning for a longer period of time.

The decline in test scores means that many 9-year-olds can understand at least some of what they read, and fewer can infer a character’s feelings from what they read. In math, students may know simple arithmetic facts, but fewer can add fractions with common denominators.

Setbacks can have powerful consequences for a generation of children who need to go beyond the basics in elementary school.

“Student test scores beginning in first, second and third grade are highly predictive of their success later in school and their overall academic trajectories,” said Susanna Loeb, director of Brown University’s Annenberg Institute. Educational inequality.

“The biggest cause for concern is the low achievement of low-achieving children,” he added. Being so disadvantaged, they are unlikely to graduate high school or go to college, she said.

The National Assessment of Educational Progress is considered the gold standard in testing. Unlike state tests, it is standardized across the country, stable over time and makes no attempt to hold individual schools accountable for results, making it more reliable, experts believe.

The test results provided a snapshot of one age group: 9-year-olds, typically in third or fourth grade. (More results will be released later this fall, by state, for fourth- and eighth-graders.)

Andrew Ho, a professor of education at Harvard and an expert on educational testing, said, “It’s a test that can speak to federal and state leaders without embarrassment. It oversees the exam.

Over time, since the test was first administered in the early 1970s, scores in reading and especially math have generally trended upward or remained stable. This includes a period of strong growth from the late 1990s to the mid-2000s.

But over the past decade or so, student scores have leveled off rather than gained, while gaps between low- and high-performing students have widened.

Then came the pandemic, which closed schools across the country almost overnight. Teachers taught through Zoom and students struggled to learn online while sitting at home.

In some parts of the country, the worst disruptions were short-lived, and schools reopened that fall. But in other areas, particularly in large cities with low-income students and students of color, schools were closed for months, and some didn’t fully reopen until last year.

National tests tell the story of “a decade of progress,” “a decade of inequality” and then the “shock” of the pandemic, which came with a one-two punch.

“It destroyed progress, and it exacerbated inequality,” Dr Ho said. “We have our work cut out for us now.”

He estimates that losing one point on a national test is roughly three weeks worth of learning. That means a top-performing student who lost three points in math could catch up in nine weeks, while a low-performing student who lost 12 points needed 36 weeks, or nearly nine months — and still lags significantly behind more advanced peers.

There are signs that students – fully back in school – are starting to learn Again at a normal paceBut experts say it will take more than a regular school day to make up for the gaps created by the pandemic.

Janice K., who led Chicago Public Schools until last year, said the decisions to focus on getting students back on track were “pressing.” Jackson is now a member of the Leadership Council for Change, representing the state’s education and schools. District leaders. He called for the federal government to step forward with big ideas, invoking the Marshall Plan, an American initiative to help rebuild Europe after World War II.

“It’s so dramatic to me,” he said, adding that politicians, school leaders, teachers’ unions and parents must put aside many of the differences that erupted during the pandemic and help students recover.

“No more arguments, back and forth and vitriol and finger pointing,” he said. “Everyone should treat this as a crisis.”

But solutions can be basic, if difficult to implement. Martin West, a professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and a member of the national assessment governing body that oversees the test, said low-performing students should spend more time studying. School days or summer school.

The federal government has budgeted $122 billion for student recovery, the largest single investment in American schools, and at least 20 percent of that money must be spent on academic retention. There are some other schools Difficulty recruiting teachersLet alone teachers, and others may have to spend more than 20 percent of their money to cover large gaps.

“I don’t see a silver bullet,” Dr. West said, “beyond finding a way to increase instructional time.”