We finally have a clear picture of the pandemic’s devastating impact on students, as the results of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), known as the nation’s report card, were released. For parents, here is what you need to know about the results nationwide and in Illinois.
An overview of NAEP
The National Assessment of Educational Progress is a test administered by an arm of the U.S. Department of Education. While today’s students take tests for everything, the NAEP is different.
Considered the gold standard of student assessments, the NAEP tells us how students across the country (not just in one particular school or state) are doing by measuring the academic level of fourth and eighth grade students in reading and math.
A representative sample of approximately 450,000 students in more than 10,000 schools were tested between January and March 2022. The previous test was given in 2019, before the pandemic.
The data from The Nation’s Report Card offers the first look at the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on what the nation’s fourth- and eighth-graders know and can do, and the results aren’t at all surprising to educators and parents.
Compared to 2019, average scores – as well as students’ confidence levels – declined in both subjects and grades. The most troubling data from fourth graders showed that reading scores slid to the lowest since 1990. However, when looking at math, the declines in both fourth and eighth graders’ scores were the largest ever recorded. Nationwide, one-quarter of fourth graders and 40 percent of eighth graders in math were “below basic.”
Experts say the eighth-grade scores are especially troubling as those students who took the test last year are now in high school, where they will be confronted with higher level math that will prepare them for careers in STEM related fields.
“Every student was vulnerable to the pandemic’s disruptions,” says Peggy G. Carr, commissioner of the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics, in a press release. “It’s clear we all need to come together—policymakers and community leaders at every level—as partners in helping our educators, children, and families succeed. We do not have a moment to waste.”
When compared to the nationwide results, Illinois fared better than most states. In reading and math, Illinois fourth graders’ scores remained the same as in 2019.
Eighth grade reading scores dipped minimally, but math scores fell in line with the national average of an 8-point drop. Educators generally equate a 10-point decline with a year of learning.
How parents can use the results
National Education Consultant Gary Abud Jr. says that parents can take an active role in helping their children succeed in school. He offers some tips:
- Get to know your child’s teachers to understand expectations and create learning goals.
- For elementary school children, work on math fact fluency (practicing addition, subtraction, multiplication, division facts) in simple ways, e.g., flashcards, in conversation.
- Have kids make up their own example story problems for a particular topic.
- When working through homework together, don’t focus simply on getting to the answer, but instead take time to have your child explain their process and make their thinking visible. If they need help, adults can do the same. It’s a strategy called “elaboration” and it’s one of the most high-leverage learning tools that research has shown.
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