Nationwide reading and math scores fall

Students have to memorize a series of physical motions as they follow along with a brain building exercise during Social Emotional Learning class at Meadow Elementary School in Valencia on Thursday, 102121. Dan Watson/The Signal

SCV district officials said in-place supports mitigated effects of COVID-19 pandemic on learning 

Across the nation, average scores for age 9 students in 2022 declined 5 points in reading and 7 points in mathematics compared to 2020 — signaling the largest average score decline in reading since 1990, and first-ever score decline in mathematics. 

In the Santa Clarita Valley, elementary district officials said local trends mirror national trends overall as students experienced different levels of learning loss in areas of reading and math. District officials added in-place support programs mitigated adverse effects on learning brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.  

According to Kate Peattie, assistant superintendent of instructional services for the Newhall School District, school districts across California did not administer the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress, known as the CAASPP test, in 2019. However, in 2021 the state Department of Education gave the option for districts to administer the CAASPP or other district-wide assessment to measure students’ progress.  

“We did choose to give the CAASPP during the 2020-21 school year, and that’s the year we saw a pretty substantial dip in our students’ scores,” Peattie said. “Our scores have rebounded from that, but they’re not where we want them to be.” 

“They’re not quite at the level they were before the pandemic, but they are headed in the right direction, getting pretty close.” 

According to SCV school district officials, assessment data from spring 2022 for their respective districts were unavailable as it is embargoed by the Department of Education, and will be released sometime in the fall. 

The national results were part of the National Assessment of Educational Progress long-term trend reading and math exams, which the National Center for Education Statistics conducts each year.  

The long-term trend exams, also known as the Nation’s Report Card, show student data as far back as 1971 and 1973 — when the exams for reading and mathematics began, respectively.  

Data from the long-term trend exams for reading indicate students have a harder time with reading overall.  

In 1971, students set the baseline for reading at 208 points, with a scale score between 0 and 500. According to the data, since then, students’ progress in reading has ebbed and flowed, with the largest score drop being in 1990 and the largest score increase starting in 1999. 

Students across the nation showed growth in 2020 with assessment results at 220 points, which then dropped to 215 points in 2022, according to the data. 

In 1973, when the first results were released for the long-term trend exam for mathematics, students set the baseline at 219 points. Since then, progress has been made by students and educators, according to the data. 

However, assessment results from 2020, at 241 points, decreased to 234 in 2022.  

In a statement released at the end of August, Peggy Carr, commissioner of the NCES, said the results of 9-year-olds from the 2022 NAEP long-term trend assessment compared with results from before the COVID-19 pandemic in the 2019-20 school year. 

“We have all been concerned about the short- and longer-term impacts of the pandemic on our children. There’s been much speculation about how shuttered schools and interrupted learning may have affected students’ opportunities to learn,” Carr wrote in a prepared statement.  

“Our own data reveal the pandemic’s toll on education in other ways, including increases in students seeking mental health services, absenteeism, school violence and disruption, cyberbullying and nationwide teacher and staff shortages.” 

According to Carr, later this year the NCES will release data from the main National Assessment of Educational Progress exams. With both the long-term trend exam and main exam, the nation will gain further “accurate and reliable” information to move forward to help students succeed. 

As part of the long-term trend exam in 2022, all students who participated were asked if they ever attended school from home or somewhere else outside of school for any duration during the last school year 2020-21 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

About 70% of 9-year-old students said they learned remotely during the last school year, 19% of respondents said they did not learn remotely and 11% of respondents said they did not remember. 

“There are many factors that may influence average student achievement, including local educational policies and practices, the quality of teachers, and available resources. Such factors may change over time and vary among student groups,” according to the NAEP long-term trend assessment report. 

According to Edwin Clement, assistant supervisor of education services for the Saugus Union School District, in-place supports such as the use of the i-Ready, a program that offers English language arts and math lessons as well as a full diagnostic exam three times a year, commitment from staff and more helped students reach standard levels.  

“The use of the i-Ready program is one big key to our success, not just the use of that program, but the fidelity and the commitment that our teachers all made, and our administrators, to make sure that we were utilizing that program,” Clement said. 

Both Clement and Peattie described the current situation as one in progress. In 2020-21, when students came back from distance-learning, educators needed to assess and collect data on their students. 

Educators then implemented various methods to meet the needs of their students, and not just academically, but socially and emotionally, too, in order for them to thrive. 

“We reinforced our commitment to our social-emotional learning… making sure that students have their basic needs met, so that they’re in the right mindset for their academic learning,” Clement said.  

“I would like to recap how important it was that everybody worked together during the pandemic,” Peattie said. “Parents, teachers, administrators, and now as we’re coming back, we still need that same kind of teamwork to ensure that kids are really getting what they need in every area.” 

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