(The Center Square) – The National Assessment of Educational Progress released assessment results Wednesday that show 13-year-olds tested in the 2022-23 school year saw dramatic declines in math and reading compared to previous years.

The NAEP’s Long Term Trend assessment, conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics, found the average reading score declined four points and the average mathematics score declined nine points.

According to Peggy G. Carr, commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics, there was no hint of post-pandemic learning recovery.

“The ‘green shoots’ of academic recovery that we had hoped to see 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,” Carr said in a statement Wednesday.

Carr added that the lowest reading scores have not been this low since they began the assessment over 40 years ago and declines in math have never seen a more precipitous decline.

“The mathematics decline for 13-year-olds was the single largest decline we have observed in the past half a century,” Carr said. “The mathematics score for the lowest-performing students has returned to levels last seen in the 1970s, and the reading score for our lowest-performing students was actually lower than it was the very first year these data were collected, in 1971.”

Math scores declined for almost every student group, with White students seeing a 6-point decline and American Indian/Native Alaskan students seeing a decline of 20 points. Asian students did not see noticeable declines between the 2019-20 and the 2022-23 assessments.

Reading scores declined in the same time frame for Black, White and students of two or more races. In contrast, American Indian/Native Alaskan, Hispanic and Asian students did not see significant differences.

Schools located in rural, urban and suburban areas saw declines, while those in towns did not see a difference. There were no measurable differences for students attending Catholic schools in mathematics or reading.

Before 2012, there had been improvements in average reading and math scores, but after 2012, scores started to fall before dipping starkly after the pandemic-related school closures.

In a statement, U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said the Biden administration had expected academic recovery after the school closures to take years.

“The latest data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress is further evidence of what the Biden-Harris administration recognized from Day One: 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 as well as address the 11-year decline that preceded it,” Cardona said.

The assessment also found that fewer students read for fun, with 31% of 13-year-olds saying they do not or hardly ever read for pleasure, up from 22% responding the same way in 2012.

“Reading for fun is strongly associated with higher achievement,” Carr said. “Aside from its academic effects, reading opens the mind and the heart to new ways of seeing and thinking about the world. Many of our young people will never discover latent passions or areas of interest without reading broadly on their own time.”

The NCES assessment also found that fewer students are enrolled in algebra classes, with 24% of students saying they were enrolled in a class in 2023 compared with 34% in 2012.

The assessment is used to gauge how students reading and mathematic skills have changed over time, and, unlike NAEP assessments, are administered by age instead of by grade. Chalkboard has previously reported on academic declines highlighted by NAEP assessments.

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