American students saw a first of its kind decline in reading and math test scores following two years of pandemic learning.
A new federal study, which is shared by AP News, shows the severity and frequency of the decrease in test scores nationwide.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, math scores saw their first decrease since this particular test began being administered and reading endured its worst drop in the last 30 years.
Students saw their math scores drop 7 percentage points for a nine year old test-taker, while the average reading marks lost another 5 percentage points.
These declines seem to take root in the style of learning that teachers and schools administered during the pandemic years, where lectures were given online and students were asked to learn from home until the spread of the virus was slowed.
Once children returned to the classroom in person, they were met with strict health and safety protocols which left teachers and students home for days at a time if they showed symptoms or tested positive.
“These are some of the largest declines we have observed in a single assessment cycle in 50 years off the NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress) program,” shared Daniel McGrath, who is an associate commissioner of the NCES. “Students in 2022 are performing at a level last seen two decades ago.”
This is alarming, but not completely unforeseen, as many parents begged school boards to increase access to learning during the pandemic. Many believed that their children were not learning at the same rate as they were able to pre-pandemic and these data seem to prove those parents to be correct.
Some people have also found some statistics pertaining to demographics to be alarming. One such person is Denise Forte, who works as the CEO for Education Trust.
Due to inequitable and unjust school systems, students who are the most underserved continue to struggle academically both before and during the pandemic,” she says. “Decision-makers at all levels have not done nearly enough to address the long-standing resource inequities that prohibit Black, Latino, and students from low-income backgrounds from reaching their full academic potential.”
College students have also felt a similar pain when looking back on their schooling during the pandemic.
Allison Wagner, who runs a scholarship program called All-In Milwaukee, shared this concern when speaking to AP News.
“We have so many students who are going on to college academically malnourished,” said Wagner. “There is no way they are going to be academically prepared for the rigor of college.”
Some colleges and universities have even gone so far as to offer intermediate programs to ease students into college level classes. These classes, named “bridge programs”, offer a fast option for students who want to learn what they missed during the abridged school years in 2020 and 2021.
American schools have a long road ahead of them as they try to amend the errors made during the pandemic-era, and to begin to resume a positive trend in test scores and learning.