Two decades’ worth of progress…gone. Just like that. Everyone was aware of the learning loss and intellectual damage done by the COVID-19 pandemic, but the recently released National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) scores offer grim, sobering insight on just how devastating the pandemic was to education—math and reading scores for 9-year-olds across the United States dropped dramatically between 2020 and 2022, resulting in performance in these subjects dropping to the levels of 20 years ago.

NAEP Test Background and Insights

For those unfamiliar, the NAEP test is a gold standard colloquially known as “the nation’s report card” and is effective at comparing student achievement from decade to decade. This most recent test sample comprised approximately 15,000 9-year-olds from more than 400 schools across the county; two-thirds of those students were fourth graders.

According to NAEP, average scores for age 9 students in 2022 declined five (5) points in reading and seven (7) points in mathematics compared to 2020. If this doesn’t seem like much, consider that it is the largest average score decline in reading since 1990, and the first ever score decline in mathematics. Every year, since 1973, math scores either increased or remained steady—until 2022.

Other insights:

  • In 2022, reading and mathematics scores for students at five selected percentile levels declined compared to 2020. In both subjects, scores for lower-performing age 9 students declined more than scores for higher-performing students compared to 2020.
  • The score difference between students attending suburban schools and students attending city schools narrowed in reading between 2020 and 2022. This resulted in a narrowing of the score gap between students attending schools from these two locations (from 12 points in 2020 to 4 points in 2022). In mathematics, however, the gap widened from 25 points in 2020 to 33 points in 2022.
  • Based on these new test scores, 9-year-olds in 2022 are now performing at the same level in math as 9-year-olds did in 1999 and at the same reading level as in 2004.

What These Scores Mean

While education experts knew that learning loss and achievement gaps were potentially devastating consequences of the pandemic, it’s now apparent that even those experts may have underestimated just how dire those consequences would be. “I was taken aback by the scope and the magnitude of the decline,” said Peggy Carr, head of the National Center for Education Statistics, the administrator of the NAEP test. “The big takeaway is that there really are no increases in achievement in either of the subjects for any student group in this assessment.”

As many now know, the hardest-hit students were those already considered low-performing and those classified as low-income—particularly Black and Hispanic students, many of whom were not afforded the same luxuries (computers or tablets, access to high-speed internet, and other technology) as their more affluent counterparts during the critical period of remote learning during the pandemic. This only set those students further behind their peers—and the danger is that, because of this achievement gap, these already-vulnerable students may disengage with education completely, leading to higher dropout rates and lower graduation rates.

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What Can Be Done?

The need to accelerate learning has never been greater, especially among lower-performing students. And there are ways to mitigate the achievement gaps—through services like high-dosage tutoring, after-school programs, and other resources that can be purchased through federal funding provided to school districts, such as EANS. High-dosage tutoring has proven effective at increasing student outcomes in a brief period of time. But to be effective, high-dosage tutoring must occur at least three times a week for the duration of the school year, in one-to-one or very small-group environments, led by qualified instructors.

How Catapult Learning’s High-Dosage Tutoring Can Help

Catapult Learning’s flexible, turnkey High-Dosage Tutoring solutions are designed to accelerate learning in literacy and math for all K-12 students. A comprehensive, integrated approach that supports the whole student and optimizes academic outcomes, our High-Dosage Tutoring reinforces key skills in the current grade’s core content through our Acceleration Framework—a research-based approach that includes diagnostic assessment, individualized student plans, personalized support, formative assessment, and evidence-based literacy and math curriculum.

Now is the time to address the learning loss and achievement gaps illustrated by this year’s NAEP test results. By implementing a flexible, research-based, turnkey high-dosage tutoring program that supports the whole student, your schools can begin the important process of narrowing these gaps and restoring the learning that has been lost over the past couple of years.

Catapult Learning is ready to help. To learn more, download our High-Dosage Tutoring brochure and schedule a call with us.

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