Test results: The pandemic’s effect on the nation’s report card

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Ugly numbers, hard to read

The national report card isn’t looking great. Data out this week revealed that 9-year-olds’ math and reading scores took a huge hit in the last two years — a worrying early sign of the pandemic’s impact on education. Reading results are down some 5 points, the steepest decline since 1990, and math scores have declined for the first time since the National Assessment of Educational Progress began in the 1970s.

Different class

When Covid-19 shut down schools and parents began to stand in as substitute teachers, many expected that education would suffer, but the full toll is only now becoming clear.

For top-performing students the change in results in the last 2 years has been relatively modest, with scores falling just 2 and 3 points for reading and math, respectively. Sadly, however, it was the students who were already struggling most that suffered the worst drops following the pivot to at-home education. The bottom 10% of reading students saw their scores drop 10 points on average over the two-year assessment window, whilst the lowest-performing math students suffered a 12 point drop in the same period.

The widening chasm between the highest and lowest-performing students will be a major concern for parents and policymakers — particularly in the context of severe teacher shortages in certain areas.

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