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Students’ math, reading scores during COVID-19 pandemic saw steepest decline in decades: Education Department

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American students’ reading and math skills were severely damaged during the coronavirus pandemic across almost all demographics.

A report on the nation’s plummeting test scores was published by the Department of Education on Thursday, showing dramatic losses across the board for students in the U.S.

“In 2022, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) conducted a special administration of the NAEP long-term trend (LTT) reading and mathematics assessments for age 9 students to examine student achievement during the COVID-19 pandemic,” the Education Department reported.

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FILE - A student reflects her lunch bag on a wall in a hallway as COVID-19 restrictions are lifted in Philadelphia, March 8, 2021. 

FILE – A student reflects her lunch bag on a wall in a hallway as COVID-19 restrictions are lifted in Philadelphia, March 8, 2021. 
(Reuters/Hannah Beier)

“Average scores for age 9 students in 2022 declined 5 points in reading and 7 points in mathematics compared to 2020,” the DOE claimed. “This is the largest average score decline in reading since 1990, and the first ever score decline in mathematics.”

Reading scores saw their largest decrease in 30 years, while math scores had their first decrease in the history of the testing regimen done by the National Center for Education Statistics, a branch of the federal government. 

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FILE: Students and parents arrive masked for the first day of the school year at Grant Elementary School in Los Angeles, Aug. 16, 2021.

FILE: Students and parents arrive masked for the first day of the school year at Grant Elementary School in Los Angeles, Aug. 16, 2021.
(ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images)

The disastrous test results were observed across previously established  percentiles, but already lower performing students were hit the hardest.

The report explains, “In 2022, reading and mathematics scores for students at all five selected percentile levels declined compared to 2020. In both subjects, scores for lower-performing age 9 students declined more than scores for higher-performing students compared to 2020.”

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Students wearing masks board a school bus outside New Explorations into Science, Technology and Math school, in the Lower East Side neighborhood of New York, Dec. 21, 2021.

Students wearing masks board a school bus outside New Explorations into Science, Technology and Math school, in the Lower East Side neighborhood of New York, Dec. 21, 2021.
(AP Photo/Brittainy Newman, File)

“These are some of the largest declines we have observed in a single assessment cycle in 50 years of the NAEP program,” said Daniel McGrath, the acting associate commissioner of NCES. “Students in 2022 are performing at a level last seen two decades ago.”

Much of the nation’s standardized testing didn’t happen during the early days of the pandemic, so the findings released Thursday gave an early look at the impact of pandemic learning disruptions. 

Broader data is expected to be released later this year as part of the National Assessment of Educational Progress, also known as the Nation’s Report Card.

The Associated Press and Fox News’ Landon Mion contributed to this report.