Nation’s Report Card: ‘No Progress in Either Mathematics or Reading Performance’ in Decade

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Results of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), also known as the Nation’s Report Card, shows U.S. school children have made “no progress” in reading or mathematics over the past ten years.

The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), which administers the NAEP, released its 2019 results Wednesday for reading and math for students in grades four and eight.

“Over the past decade, there has been no progress in either mathematics or reading performance, and the lowest-performing students are doing worse,” Peggy Carr, associate commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), said, according to Education Week. “In fact, over the long term in reading, the lowest-performing students—those readers who struggle the most—have made no progress from the first NAEP administration almost 30 years ago.”

Since 2017, the last year testing took place, reading performance has declined substantially in both grades four and eight.

Education Week reported:

Nationwide, students’ reading performance fell by 4 scale-score points, to 263, in 8th grade, and by 2 scale points, to 220, in 4th grade, on a 500-point scale. The top-performing 10 percent of 4th graders were the only group to hold steady in reading; all other students performed worse, and the lowest-performing 10 percent of students declined the most. In grade 8, students of every performance decile performed worse in 2019 than 2017.

According to the results, the only state that showed improvement in reading in fourth grade was Mississippi, while the District of Columbia exhibited the only improvement in eighth grade reading performance.

Most states showed no change in math. Students in grade four, on average, scored 241 on a 500-point scale this year, only one point higher than the average score of 240 for 2017. Those in grade eight scored 282, compared to 283 in 2017.

In a statement, U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos called the NAEP results “frankly devastating.”

“This country is in a student achievement crisis, and over the past decade it has continued to worsen, especially for our most vulnerable students,” she said, adding:

Two out of three of our nation’s children aren’t proficient readers. In fact, fourth grade reading declined in 17 states and eighth grade reading declined in 31. The gap between the highest and lowest performing students is widening, despite $1 trillion in Federal spending over 40 years designated specifically to help close it.

NCES especially notes the “growing disparities between the highest and lowest achievers” in the decade between 2009 and 2019.

Compared to a decade ago, scores in reading and math in grades four and eight “were lower or not significantly different for lower-performing students at the 10th and 25th percentiles,” states NCES.

These are the ten years since the Obama-era Common Core State Standards were adopted by most states in the country and remain still, though in many states they have been rebranded to a local flavor name.

The mantra of Common Core proponents was that the reform, whose centerpiece was uniformity of standards across the U.S., would drastically reduce the achievement gap between mainly white students from middle- and upper- income families, and mostly black and Hispanic students from lower-income families. The NAEP results released Wednesday show the achievement gap has worsened.

Public schools in the country have now embraced the next progressive reform – social and emotional learning – which is purported to ensure equity and inclusiveness in schools.

“This must be America’s wake-up call,” DeVos said. “We cannot abide these poor results any longer. We can neither excuse them away nor simply throw more money at the problem.”



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