Eighth graders in almost every state in the country and fourth graders in a large majority of states, including California, have seen a significant drop in average math scores since the pandemic, reflecting “heartbreaking” academic setbacks for students across much of the country. according to the results of the “Nation Report” published on Sunday.
Average reading scores also fell in most states, although California didn’t see a significant decline.
The falling scores spanned the states’ political and demographic makeup, making it difficult to draw simple conclusions about the role the duration of the pandemic-related campus closures played on student performance, officials said. Overall, Los Angeles results, while alarmingly low, showed signs of resilience compared to other major boroughs, and California’s falling or stalled results performed slightly better than the national average.
The standardized test scores are particularly concerning as experts were already sounding the alarm before the pandemic that many students nationwide are failing to achieve basic reading and math skills.
“The data before the pandemic did not reflect an education system that was on track,” said US Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona. “The pandemic has only made it worse. It took a poor performance and dropped them even further.
That result, he said, was “heartbreaking and horrifying.”
A poll conducted alongside the tests found many teachers expressed uncertainty about their ability to help students catch up – with about half saying they were fairly or extremely confident they could help their students fill gaps caused by the pandemic close.
The rigorous standardized assessment, known as the National Assessment of Educational Progress, administered by the National Center for Education Statistics, was given to a sample of fourth- and eighth-graders in early 2022.
The test is administered to students in all 50 states and allows for statewide comparisons to before the pandemic in 2019. It also includes scores for many of the nation’s largest school districts, including Los Angeles Unified, which major district officials say belonged to whose scores, although low, reflected a “bright spot” of resilience.
Across the country, only about one in four eighth graders met proficiency standards for the national math assessment, compared with about one in three in 2019.
For reading, about 31% of eighth graders met proficiency standards, up from about 34% in 2019.
The decline in math scores was particularly sharp and widespread, particularly for eighth graders, a year that is a crucial stepping stone to higher math. In California, where the vast majority of schools were closed through spring 2021, scores fell 6 points. In Texas and Florida — where schools could reopen in fall 2020 — scores fell 7 points, and in Oklahoma, where schools could also reopen in fall 2020, they fell 13 points.
Peggy Carr, commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics, said the results of the national assessment of educational progress reveal inconclusive answers about how time spent in virtual classes impacted students given student achievement.
“Nothing in this data suggests that we can draw a straight line between the time spent on distance learning and student achievement,” she said.
A study conducted earlier this year by researchers at Harvard University found that distance learning was a key reason for widening the achievement gap.
Carr said more research needs to be done to understand the role remote learning has played, including other factors that have impacted students and teachers during the pandemic, such as mental health, internet access and the quality of distance learning.
The quality of distance learning was not uniform across the country. Some students spent the entire school day with a live virtual class teacher, while others had minimal live classes. Those who spent more live time online with a teacher showed better results.
In a survey conducted in conjunction with the national assessment, about 39% of eighth graders who scored in the bottom quartile on the reading test reported participating in real-time video lessons with their teacher every day or almost every day.
Of those in the highest quartile, about 74% said they had real-time lessons every day or almost every day.
In California, the results were less dire than some experts had feared, as school districts were among the last in the country to bring students back to campus.
For fourth graders in California, math scores fell 4 points. Texas and Florida were down 5 points, Colorado down 6 points, and New York down 10 points.
In reading, California students in fourth and eighth grades showed no significant change in score, even though the majority of states saw declines.
The results don’t mean California students are doing well. Before the pandemic, California underperformed in reading and math compared to the national average.
The latest results mean that only about 30% of California eighth graders achieve reading proficiency. About 23% achieve knowledge in mathematics.
Los Angeles Unified, meanwhile, was among major districts with scores that Carr said have demonstrated “niches of resilience amid all the chaos of the pandemic.”
LA fourth graders saw a 4 point drop in math. That’s significant, but smaller than most major neighborhoods that took part in the test. San Diego, for example, was down 8 points. New York saw a 9-point drop and Baltimore City schools saw a 15-point drop.
The district was one of only four major school systems not to record a significant change in eighth grade math scores.
Meanwhile, in eighth grade reading, LA Unified students’ scores went up 9 points. It was the only major district to post an increase.
However, even before the pandemic, LA students underperformed compared to students in cities across the country.
With the score increase in 2022, about 28% of eighth graders in LA achieved reading proficiency. About 17% achieved proficiency in mathematics.
support Alberto Carvalho said LA Unified has taken actions that have benefited students, including the rapid shift to online learning. While praising the gains, “there’s still work to be done.”
“The reality is that overall performance is still very low,” he said.
California education officials are expected to release Monday the results of the state’s Smarter Balanced Assessments, which measure how well students meet state standards in the arts and math of the English language.
Last month, Los Angeles Unified released the results of its state assessment results, showing that about 72% of students failed to meet state standards in math and about 58% failed to meet standards in English.
The dismal results in eighth-grade math on the national test were of particular concern as it comes at a pivotal moment for students, officials said. Decreases have been seen across most racial and ethnic groups, and among higher and lower-performing students.
“Eighth grade is the gateway to more advanced math courses,” Carr said.
She said students are likely to struggle more with math because it’s harder for families to support students with math at home. While many families encourage reading at home, supporting math classes is a challenge for families.
The data should help inform how schools are addressing student recovery, officials said. School systems must spend 20% of American Rescue Plan tuition funds to address learning disabilities.
Roberto Rodríguez, Assistant Secretary for Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development at the US Department of Education, found that about 56% of schools use high-dose tutoring to help students recover from academic setbacks and about 75% Offer summer learning and enrichment programs.
But it’s not enough, he said.
“We need to do more, and we need to spend more, and we need to do this more urgently,” he said.
https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2022-10-23/test-scores-united-states-pandemic-setbacks-math National test scores show significant pandemic drops in math