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US math and reading scores drop to their lowest levels in decades

Math scores, given since 1973, are now at their lowest point since 1990, while reading scores have hit their lowest level since 2004.
US math and reading scores drop to their lowest levels in decades
Posted at 2:06 PM, Jun 21, 2023

A new report shows a significant decline in math and reading scores among 13-year-old students in the United States.

The report released Wednesday by the National Center for Education Statistics reveals these scores have reached their lowest levels in decades, with math scores experiencing the most substantial drop ever recorded.

In mathematics, 13-year-old students experienced a decrease of 9 points since 2020, going from a score of 280 to 271. In reading, the scores dropped by 4 points from 260 to 256 since 2020. It is worth noting that the maximum possible score for each test is 500 points, and these results reflect the performance of 8,700 13-year-olds in each subject. 

The findings highlight the learning setbacks caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the fact that it has been more than two years since the majority of students returned to in-person classes, these numbers indicate a lack of substantial academic recovery, officials say.

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"What we may be seeing here is that the learning disruptions further undermined the development of basic skills that students need at this age — particularly the lower-performing students whose achievement has been declining long before the COVID pandemic," said Peggy Carr, the commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics. "This reinforces the fact that academic recovery is going to take some time — and it does not mean simply going back to the level of achievement we saw before the pandemic."

The scores on the math exam, which has been administered since 1973, have reached their lowest point since 1990. Similarly, reading scores have dropped to their lowest level since 2004.

Race also played a factor in the study, and the report says that reading scores declined for Black students, White students, and students of two or more races. However, there was no significant change in the scores of Hispanic students, American Indian and Alaska Native students, or Asian students. In terms of math scores, all racial groups experienced declines.

"At the Department of Education, we continue to offer technical assistance, issue guidance, and hold convenings focused on the specific strategies included in our Raise the Bar: Lead the World Plan for improving academic performance and tackling disparities in educational opportunities and outcomes. More action is needed at every level to reverse decades of educational neglect and to Raise the Bar for all students," U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said in a statement following the report's release. 

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