Eighth-grade math performance has dropped eight points since 2019, and about a third of students in both grades can't read at the minimum required level, according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) report.
NAEP, also known as the "Nation's Report Card," is the only national and continuing assessment program administered by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) of the Department of Education. The Nation’s Report Card is the gold standard for measuring student academic achievements. The results released on Oct. 24 were based on tests administered in the spring.
She began her presentation with contexts of the testing results: the pandemic, reduced in-person learning, and increased mental health needs of students. She said she would have to talk to reading experts to find out why students' reading performance lost 30 years of progress.
"We are talking about a really serious erosion of children's capacities to read and count in the next generation of the workforce," Beverly Perdue, former governor of North Carolina and chair of the National Assessment Governing Board, which sets policies and achievement levels for the Nation’s Report Card, said during a media event at the National Press Club in Washington on Oct. 2. “So this becomes a global economic issue for America.”
U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona called the results “appalling” and “unacceptable.”
“This is a moment of truth for education,” he told reporters in a pre-release briefing on Oct. 21.
In a statement, Perdue said students’ learning gaps “predated—but were exacerbated by the pandemic.”
Dr. Vicki Alger, a policy adviser for the Heartland Institute, agreed.
"We should be careful not to make COVID school closures the whole story. School closures made an already bad situation worse. Alarming proportions of students are still not proficient in the core subjects of math and reading," she told The Epoch Times.
Virginia Takes ActionsThe Nation’s Report Card also provides a platform for peer comparisons across states. Virginia saw the sharpest decline in the nation in fourth-grade reading scores, 13.6 points since 2017 and three times the national average.
“We must acknowledge the glaring reality that we face together: our nation's children have experienced catastrophic learning loss, and Virginia students are among the hardest hit,” Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin said at a press event in Richmond on Oct. 24. “We also must clearly recognize that the underpinnings to this catastrophic performance were decisions that were made long before we had ever heard of COVID-19.”
He said the reason for Virginia’s decline was lowered standards and expectations and gave examples of recent events: the 2017 accreditation standard revision and the lowering of standards for math (2019) and reading (2020) in the Commonwealth’s Standard of Learning tests.
As a result of lowered standards, Virginia’s “honesty gap”—a performance gap between the state and national level—gave parents the false impression that students were doing well, said Jillian Balow, Virginia’s superintendent of public instruction.
Youngkin announced new policies, including investing $30 million in learning loss recovery, $3 million in enhancing teacher recruitment and retention, and releasing the “learning needs dashboard” for students not performing at grade level so parents and teachers could monitor learning recovery status.
He also challenged Virginia school divisions to spend the $2 billion remaining federal K-12 funds. Youngkin said that local school divisions would be required to submit updated spending plans for federal spending funds by Dec. 31.