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Elementary and middle school students in Texas have seen steep drops in their math scores during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a national report released Monday.
The National Education Progress Assessment, an exam given to a sample of fourth- and eighth-grade public school students every two years, measures the performance of state students in reading and math over time by compared to a national average. It also provides a national snapshot of the impact of the pandemic on student achievement.
Texas math scores on this exam dropped significantly between 2019 and 2022; math scores fell 7 points for eighth graders and 5 points for fourth graders. The decline in math, which follows national trends, is bringing student achievement back to levels last seen in 2003.
“Mathematics is a really scaffolded skill set that requires constant reinforcement. When you fail as a student and fail to master a specific skill or soft skill, it has a cumulative impact,” said Jonathan Feinstein, Texas director of the Education Trust, a nonprofit focused on promoting the academic success of students of color and low-income students. “When you think about the disruptive learning, especially over the past two years, it’s not surprising.”
Reading scores were virtually unchanged across all domains for Texas students, which the head of the Texas Education Agency called an indicator that the state is recovering well from the effects of the pandemic.
“While we largely recover from the effects of the pandemic in reading, there is still a lot of work to do in math,” Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath said in a statement. In state-by-state comparisons of test scores, Texas ranked 33rd in fourth-grade reading, 14th in fourth-grade math, 41st in eighth-grade reading, and 25th in eighth-grade math. Texas’ rankings improved in fourth- and eighth-grade reading and eighth-grade math.
White and Asian students in Texas continue to outperform black and Hispanic students.
The exam, known as the National Report Card, was administered to 450,000 students nationwide, including 23,000 in Texas, from January through March, and is separate from state assessments of academic readiness, or test STAAR. While STAAR measures how students test against Texas curriculum requirements, the national exam is the only one given to students in each state.
“The results show the heavy toll on student learning during the pandemic, as the magnitude and scale of the declines are the largest ever in math,” said Peggy G. Carr, commissioner of the National Center for Education. Statistics, the research arm of the US Department of Education. “The findings also underscore the importance of teaching and the role of schools in students’ academic growth and overall well-being.”
Disclosure: Education Trust has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the journalism of the Tribune. Find a suit list here.