Just-Released National Test Scores Show How School Closures Decimated Student Learning Over Last Two Years

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Today the National Assessment for Educational Progress, or NAEP, released test scores for fourth-graders, mostly nine years old, and they are grim: math scores dropped seven points from 2020-2022, marking a first-ever decline, while reading scores slipped five points,the largest dip in 30 years. The losses were greatest for Black and Brown students, according to the test often referred to as “the Nation’s Report Card” and the “gold standard” for measuring student learning. Aaron Pallas of Columbia University told the Wall Street Journal, “I don’t think we can expect to see these 9-year-olds catch up by the time they leave high school,” he said, referring to the lower-performing students. “This is not something that is going to disappear quickly.”

This administration of these tests was to measure reading and math achievement during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dan Goldhaber told The 74, “the pandemic is reversing a long-term trend of narrowing achievement gaps. That’s particularly bad, to my mind.” (For a local example, see Newark, where internal testing correlates with NAEP results: only 9% of students in grades 2-8 met state expectations in math and only 11% met expectations in reading.) Goldhaber references the “urgency gap,” the difference between state and school district responses and student need, and suggests “dramatically lengthening the school year to implementing widespread one-to-one tutoring” in order to deal with the enormous scale of learning loss. Currently billions of dollars of COVID federal aid hasn’t been spent by school districts a year after they got it.

NAEP tests are given to representative groups of students in fourth, eighth grades, and twelfth grades, primarily in math and reading. Later in the Fall NAEP will release complete results, with individual state report cards and more detail on subgroups.

Twitter is on fire with commentary, with much criticism of unnecessary school closures that generated this degree of learning loss. Here’s a sampling:

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