The results of national tests that were revealed on Thursday indicated in unmistakable terms the terrible consequences that the epidemic has had on American kids. The performance of 9-year-olds in arithmetic and reading has dropped to the levels that were seen two decades ago.
This year, 9-year-olds lost ground in math for the first time since the National Assessment of Educational Progress tests began tracking student achievement in the 1970s. In addition, 9-year-olds’ reading scores dropped by the largest margin in more than 30 years. Both of these trends occurred this year.
The decreases were noticeable across practically all racial groups and economic brackets, and they were most severe for the pupils with the worst academic performance. Students who scored in the worst 10th percentile had a loss in math performance that was four times as severe as that experienced by top achievers in the 90th percentile, who only experienced a small decline of three points.
Peggy G. Carr, the commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics, the government organisation that was in charge of administering the test at the beginning of this year, said that she was “caught aback by the extent and the degree of the decrease.” The tests were administered to a nationwide sample of 14,800 9-year-olds, and the findings were compared with the results of tests performed by the same age group in the beginning of 2020, just before the epidemic began to take root in the United States.
Even before the epidemic, there was already a divide between children who performed well and those who did not, but today, “the people at the bottom are sinking quicker,” Dr. Carr observed.
In the subject of mathematics, black students suffered a loss of 13 points, while white students suffered a loss of just five points, resulting in a wider achievement disparity between the two groups. Research has documented the profound impact that school closures had on students from low-income families, as well as on Black and Hispanic students. This is in part due to the fact that schools serving students from these demographics were more likely to continue offering remote learning for longer periods of time.
As a result of the reductions in test scores, even while many 9-year-olds are able to display a partial knowledge of what they are reading, fewer of them are able to infer a character’s sentiments based on what they have read. In mathematics, some kids may grasp basic arithmetic concepts, but a far smaller percentage of pupils are able to add fractions with common denominators.
The failures might have significant repercussions for a whole generation of youngsters who need to go beyond fundamentals while still in elementary school in order to be successful in later life.
According to Susanna Loeb, director of the Annenberg Institute at Brown University, which focuses on education inequality, “Student test scores, even starting as early as first, second, and third grade.
In terms of evaluations, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) is regarded as the benchmark of excellence. In contrast to state exams, it is standardised across the whole nation, has stayed constant throughout time, and does not make any effort to hold particular schools responsible for outcomes, all of which are factors that experts feel contribute to its greater reliability.
The findings of the exam provided a glimpse for just one age group: 9-year-olds, who are normally enrolled in either third or fourth grade.
Since the inaugural administration of the exam in the early 1970s, overall reading and notably math results have typically followed an increasing trend or remained stable over the course of time. This encompassed a time of significant advancement beginning in the late 1990s and continuing into the middle of the 2000s.
But during the course of the previous decade or two, student scores had levelled out rather than increased, and the gap between low-performing children and high-performing pupils expanded.
After that, a pandemic broke out, which caused schools all around the nation to close nearly immediately. The classes were conducted using Zoom, and students were required to participate remotely while attempting to master the material online.