COVID-19 Pandemic |  20 years of math and reading progress erased

COVID-19 Pandemic | 20 years of math and reading progress erased

COVID-19 Pandemic |  20 years of math and reading progress erased

National test results released last Thursday in the United States clearly show the devastating effects of the pandemic on American schoolchildren, with 9-year-olds’ performance in math and reading dropping to levels 20 years ago. .

Posted at 12:00

Sarah Mervosh
The New York Times

This year, for the first time since National Educational Progress Assessment Tests began tracking student achievement in the 1970s, 9-year-olds lost ground in math, and achievement in reading recorded their highest achievement. great decline in more than three decades.

These declines affect nearly all ethnic communities and all income levels and are significantly more pronounced for students with the lowest scores. While the best performing students (from 90And percentile) recorded a modest decline – 3 points in mathematics -, pupils in 10th gradeAnd the lower percentile lost 12 points in math, or four times as much.

“I was surprised at the scale and extent of the decline,” said Peggy G. Carr, commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics, the federal agency that administered the exam earlier this year. A national sample of 14,800 9-year-olds was tested and compared with test results from the same age group in early 2020, just before the pandemic hit the United States.

The highest and lowest performing students already showed gaps before the pandemic, but today “the weakest students are falling faster,” said the DD. Carr.

In math, black students lost 13 points, compared with 5 points for white students, which widened the gap between the two groups. The research documented the profound effect of school closures on low-income students and black and Spanish-speaking students, in part because their schools were more likely to continue distance learning for longer periods of time.

Declining test scores mean that while many 9-year-olds may show partial understanding of what they read, fewer can infer a character’s feelings from what they read. In mathematics, students may know simple arithmetic concepts, but fewer of them can add fractions with a common denominator.


These failures could have serious consequences for a generation of children that must move beyond the basics of primary school to grow up later.

“Student test scores, even from grades 1, 2 and 3, are really very predictive of how well they will do in school and their educational trajectories in general,” said Susanna Loeb, director of the Annenberg Institute at Brown University, which focuses on educational inequality.

The main cause for concern is the decline in achievement of the children with the lowest scores. Being that far behind could lead to academic disengagement, making it less likely to graduate from high school or go to college.

Susanna Loeb, director of the Annenberg Institute at Brown University

The national assessment of educational progress is considered the benchmark for educational tests. Unlike state tests, it’s standardized across the country, has remained consistent over time, and doesn’t try to hold individual schools accountable for results, which experts say makes it more reliable.

” Work to do “

The test results provided information on only one age group: 9-year-olds, who usually attend third or fourth grade. (Further results, for fourth and eighth graders, will be published by the end of the fall by each state.)

“This is a test that can speak bluntly to federal and state leaders, plainly and clearly, about the extent of the work that needs to be done,” said Andrew Ho, Harvard education professor and educational testing expert. who once served on the board overseeing the exam.

Over time, reading scores, and especially math scores, have generally tended to rise or have remained stable since the test was first used in the early 1970s, a period of strong growth from the late 1990s to the mid 2000s.

But over the past 10 years or so, student achievement has stabilized rather than improved, while the gaps between the lowest and highest scores have widened.

Then came the pandemic, which caused schools across the country to close almost overnight. The teachers gave their lessons using Enlargeand the students stayed home, trying to learn online.

In some parts of the country, the worst outages have been short-lived as schools reopened in the fall. But in other areas, especially in large cities with large populations of low-income students and students of color, schools remained closed for many months and some didn’t fully reopen until last year.

According to Ho, national tests tell the story of a “decade of progress”, followed by a “decade of inequality”, and then the “shock” of the pandemic, which came as a double whammy.

“It erased progress and aggravated inequality. We now have our work cut out. “

vicious circle

He estimates that losing a point on the national exam is equivalent to about three weeks of learning. This means that a high performing student who lost 3 points in math could catch up in just 9 weeks, while a low performing student who lost 12 points would need 36 weeks, or nearly 9 months, to catch up. backwardness and would always be behind his more advanced peers.

There are signs that back to school students have started learning at a normal pace again, but experts say it will take more normal school days to fill the gaps created by the pandemic.

Janice K. Jackson, who led Chicago public schools until last year and is now a board member of the Chiefs for Change, which represents school district and education officials across the state, the results should be a “battle cry” to get the students back on track.

He called on the federal government to come up with big ideas, citing the Marshall Plan, the US initiative to help rebuild Europe after World War II.

“It’s so dramatic for me,” he said, adding that politicians, school administrators, teacher unions and parents should put aside the many disagreements that erupted during the pandemic. And join, to help the students recover.

This article was originally published in New York Times.

Learn more

  • 122 billion United States
    The amount the federal government has allocated to help students recover is the largest investment in American schools, and at least 20% of that money must be spent on remedial education.

    SOURCE: The New York Times

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