Math and reading scores of 4th- and 8th-graders dropped during pandemic, report says. 

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Fourth- and eighth-graders fell behind in reading and had the largest ever decline in math, according to a national educational assessment that shows the devastating impact of Covid-19 on America’s children.

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The alarming findings are based on the National Assessment of Educational Progress reading and math exams, often called the “Nation’s Report Card” and conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics, a branch of the Education Department.

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“The results of today’s Nation’s Report Card are appalling and unacceptable,” US Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said Friday during a briefing before the report’s release official on Monday.

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“This is a moment of truth for education. How we respond to this will determine not only our recovery but our nation’s standing in the world.”

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The first national assessment of student achievement in three years revealed the largest math score declines among fourth- and eighth-graders since the initial trial assessment in 1990, according to NCES Commissioner Peggy Carr. The tests were administered between January and March.

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No state or large urban district showed improvements in math, the report said. Eighth-grade math scores sank in the more than 50 states and jurisdictions that participated in the assessment. 

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The last report card was issued in 2019, before the start of the pandemic in the US, where schools were shut down and teachers turned to online learning.

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The average math score of 236 for the fourth grade was 5 points lower than in 2019, and 8 points below the 2019 mark of 274 for the eighth grade. 

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The reading score of 217 for the fourth grade was down 3 points this year – the same decline as the eighth grade score of 260 – compared to 2019.

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The discouraging results come more than a month after NAEP released results showing that math and reading scores for 9-year-olds – typically fourth graders – fell between 2020 and 2022 by a level not seen in decades.

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