Data released by the National Assessment of Educational Progress found that the average reading and math scores for 13-year-olds in the United States have dropped since 2020. (NAEP). According to experts, the drop in math ability for children this age is “the single biggest decline” in the last half century.
The average mathematics score for 13-year-olds declined nine points between the 2019 – 2020 According to the NAEP, the average reading score decreased four points during the school years of 2022 – 2023.
“Green shoots,” which is a term that describes signs of recovery during a downturn, “have not materialized, as we continue to see worrisome signs about student achievement and well-being more than two years after most students returned for in-person learning,” NCES Commissioner Peggy G. Carr said.
“There are signs of risk for a generation of learners in the data we are releasing today and have released over the past year,” Carr added. “We are observing steep drops in achievement, troubling shifts in reading habits and other factors that affect achievement, and rising mental health challenges alongside alarming changes in school climate.”
Carr also stated that the math drop for 13-year-olds was “the single largest decline” witnessed in the last half-century, with the lowest-performing pupils reverting to levels last seen in the 1970s.
Meanwhile, reading scores for lowest-performing students were “actually lower than it was the very first year the data were collected, in 1971,” Carr said.
According to NAEP, math results decreased for the majority of student groups, with white students losing six points, Hispanic students losing ten points, black students losing thirteen points, and American Indian/Alaska Native children losing twenty points.
Math scores fell for both male and female students, students attending all school sites, and students from all areas of the country. Yet, the mathematics results of pupils attending Catholic schools did not change significantly.
According to reports, US Education Secretary Miguel Cardona responded to the statistics by claiming that the lower results are the result of the coronavirus outbreak, which forced many schools to close for more than a year.
Cardona went on to say that the evidence backs up projections that “the pandemic would have a devastating impact on students’ learning across the country and that it would take years of effort and investment to reverse the damage.”
While the scores were declining even before the COVID-19 pandemic rocked society, the new data reveals that the reduction is significantly more pronounced when compared to scores from ten years earlier, suggesting that other reasons are at play.