America’s Schools are Failing

The verdict is in, and it’s bad news for America’s schools and children. The 2022 National Assessment of Educational Progress, known as the Nation’s Report Card, has just revealed a nationwide plunge in reading that wiped out three decades of gains.

Ben Chapman, writing in The Wall Street Journal, says the nation’s schools recorded the largest drop in math scores ever this year, with fourth-and eighth-grade students in nearly every state showing significant declines, according to Education Department data just released. This is the most sweeping analysis of test scores since the start of the pandemic. But don’t blame the pandemic for all this bad news.

Prepandemic declines in academic achievement intensified nationwide and many longstanding gaps in student achievement grew. Low-performing fourth-grade students saw larger declines in both math and reading scores compared with high-performing ones. Black and Hispanic students in the fourth grade saw larger score drops in math than white students.

The data comes after federal test results released in September revealed the largest drop in fourth-grade reading scores since 1990 and the first-ever decline in math. Fordham Institute President Michael Petrilli said the results should serve as a wake-up call for policy makers and school-district officials around the country.

Overall, scores in math and reading for both fourth-and eighth-grade students have fallen sharply since 2019, the last time the assessments were given, according to the collection of results from 50 states, the District of Columbia and U.S. Department of Defense Education Activity schools. A separate analysis of 26 large-city school districts also showed declines.

Average math scores for eighth-graders in 2022 dropped to 274 out of a possible 500, falling 8 points from 2019. Reading scores declined 3 points, to 260. No state or jurisdiction posted gains in math in either grade, nor did any of the 26 large districts included in the analysis. Utah was the only state where the drop in the eighth-grade math score wasn’t statistically significant. Nationwide, 38% of eighth-graders tested below basic achievement levels in math. The basic level denotes partial mastery.

Fourth-grade reading had the lowest average score. Overall, percentages scoring below the basic level rose, in both reading and math. The test, administered to U.S. students ages 9 and 13, are regarded as key indicators for student achievement and future trajectory. Achieving reading proficiency by fourth grade is critical because students at that point must use reading to learn other subjects. Math proficiency in eighth grade is one of the most significant predictors of success in high school, educators said.

It will be easy for educators to blame the pandemic for these disastrous test results, but the issue runs far deeper. In my next blog, I’ll address the reasons for this decline based on an Op-ed by former Florida Governor Jeb Bush.

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