Recent test scores reveal alarming setbacks for 4th and 8th-grade students across the U.S.

A press release by The National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) detailed how test scores in mathematics and reading have shown a sharp decline throughout the nation.

The cause behind it expresses that the pandemic held students from getting the necessary education. AP News summarized this notion by stating, “The COVID-19 pandemic caused historic learning setbacks for America’s children, sparing no state or region as it erased decades of academic progress and widened racial disparities, according to results of a national test that provide the sharpest look yet at the scale of the crisis.”

NAEP’s website, officially known as the Nation’s Report Card, collected score averages from across the country to show the statistics of math and reading between 4th and 8th graders. 

Reading suffered a drop of five points in score average — the biggest drop in score levels in this subject since 1990. Mathematics went down for the first time since this yearly report started in the 1970s; The average went down seven points.

In the reading section, 57% of states, districts, and jurisdictions suffered decreased score levels among 4th-graders. None went up and the rest stayed the same. Eighth-graders shared a similar pattern, with 63% having a decrease in test scores. Only one went up, the Department of Defense Education Activity, while the rest didn’t experience any changes.

The mathematics data presents a more concerning picture. More than 80% of all the United States had a drop in scores in the 4th-grade category. However, 8th-graders shared the most startling statistic with 96% of the country showing a drop. Neither had any increase in scores with the others keeping the same score in comparison to the 2020 report card.

This bleak picture of these students’ progress has raised concern over their futures, as NPR shows. Karyn Lewis, director of the Center for School and Student Progress at NWEA stated, “I fear that this just encourages us to keep looking backwards when I would really like to see people continue to look forward.”

When Peggy Carr, the commissioner for the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), was asked how long it would take for students to bounce back, she answered “But I can tell you, if we want it to be more like months or maybe a year or so, we need to act now, rather than many, many years it would take to catch students up.”

The report also brought up the attention of U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona. He gave a statement on the impact this has on the country. “The data also represent a call to action for the important work we must do now for our students — especially those who have suffered the most during the pandemic.

Cardona continued, “This once-in-a-generation virus upended our country in so many ways — and our students cannot be the ones who sacrifice most now or in the long run. We must treat the task of catching our children up in reading and math with the urgency this moment demands.

Efforts are underway to help combat this issue of learning setbacks among students. USA TODAY reported, “the Education Department said it plans to hold sessions on reading and math with educators and education leaders to ‘reinforce the President’s call to use ARP funds to combat learning loss.’”

While it may take years to fix, these plans will go a long way to benefit the next generation’s development, for they are the country’s future.