After two years of pandemic-disrupted learning, nearly every state saw fourth- and eighth-grade students' math scores plummet, the Education Department reported Monday.
The average math scores for students in 43 states and jurisdictions fell sharply in 2022 compared with 2019, with the remaining 10 seeing no significant improvement or decline, according to the 2022 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), known as the Nation's Report Card. The average math score dropped 5 points for fourth graders and 8 points for eighth graders compared with 2019. Public schools across the country also saw an average 3-point decrease in reading scores for the same grades. Reading scores matched the NAEP's 1992 assessment, and math scores are back to 2003 levels, wiping out decades of progress.
The NAEP report is the latest and largest analysis of the pandemic's alarming impact on American students. An August report from the Associated Press showed that virtual and hybrid learning has left students significantly less prepared for college. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona, who said last year that keeping schools closed "wasn't a mistake," is now concerned how the next generation will fare on the international stage.
"This is a moment of truth for education," Cardona said. "How we respond to this will determine not only our recovery, but our nation's standing in the world."
"It's a huge deal," Fordham Institute president Michael Petrilli told the Wall Street Journal. "We have lost a huge amount of the progress that we have been making over the course of decades and it's going to take years to catch up."
While the NAEP report is "not designed to identify the causes of performance differences," National Center for Education Statistics commissioner Peggy Carr said the drop was expected given pandemic disruptions, as well as behavioral and mental-health issues at schools.
"It's extremely complex," Carr said. "We have massive, comprehensive declines everywhere."