National teen test results slip for the first time – and it’s not because of Covid

“Are you sure?” Carr recalls telling her staff when she spoke to reporters on Wednesday. “I asked them to recheck.”

The figures “concerning”: Math scores fell the most among students performing in the 10th and 25th percentiles, meaning candidates with the lowest math scores in 2020 performed worse than students who performed the most. struggled during the last administration of the test in 2012. The data also shows success. the gap between white and black candidates has widened.

Nationally, math scores for 13-year-olds declined an average of five points, while reading scores declined an average of three points. Nearly 9,000 13-year-old students in 450 schools took the test between October 2019 and December 2019.

“None of these results are impressive,” said Carr, commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics. “They are all worrying. The math scores were particularly intimidating.

The center also released performance data for 9-year-olds, but there was no significant change in average scores from 2012.

Michael Petrilli, president of the conservative Thomas B. Fordham institute, warned that test results are only a snapshot, but still called the declines among 13-year-olds “sobering” and “bad across the board. “.

One of the reasons 13-year-olds scores may have dropped while 9-year-olds scores have remained stable is the timing and impact of the Great Recession, Petrilli said. The oldest applicants were toddlers at the start of the 2008 financial crisis, so they experienced the worst of the school funding crisis of that time as young learners.

“These kids came into kindergarten when things were really bad,” he said. “Their families were grappling with unemployment and poverty in the home and the impact of declining school expenses in the classroom. It’s impossible to know if that’s the answer, but I think that’s part of the story.

The next round of NAEP’s long-term trend assessment data will be released in 2022. It will capture the learning loss caused by the pandemic, and Petrilli said he expects the scores to be ” horrible ”. Carr said she expects skill levels to drop, but couldn’t predict by how much.

Big change in reading habits: Along with the test results, the center for education statistics also released candidates’ responses to survey questions about their reading habits and lessons.

A lower percentage of 13-year-olds reported reading regularly for fun almost every day than the proportion of students who reported doing so ten years ago. And students who say they read more got higher scores. Likewise, the proportion of students enrolled in algebra and pre-algebra declined, and regular math enrollment was associated with lower scores.

Pedro Noguera, dean of the Rossier School of Education at the University of Southern California, said the survey results reflect the gap in opportunity between low-income black and Latino students and their richer white peers. . Underprivileged student neighborhoods are still too often focused on preparing for standardized tests, which can counterintuitively lead to poor performance.

“We need to make learning more compelling and interesting for children. We need to involve them more deeply, ”Noguera said. “This is how we create motivated learners. This is how we increase these scores.

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