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Texas elementary and middle school students saw a big drop in math scores during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a national report released Monday.
The National Assessment of Educational Progress, a test given to a sample of fourth- and eighth-graders in public schools every other year, measures student performance in reading and math over time compared to the national average. It also provides a national snapshot of the impact of the pandemic on student achievement.
Texas’ math scores on this test dropped significantly between 2019 and 2022; math scores dropped 7 points for eighth graders and 5 points for fourth graders. The math decline, which follows nationwide trends, is pushing student achievement to levels last seen in 2003.
“Math is a really complex set of skills that needs consistent reinforcement. When you fail as a student and don’t master one specific discrete competency or skill, it has an ever-increasing impact,” said Jonathan Feinstein, director of the Texas Education Fund, a nonprofit organization focused on promoting academic achievement for students of color and low-income students. “When you think about disruptive learning, especially in the last two to two and a half years, it’s not surprising.”
Reading scores remained largely unchanged for Texas students, which the head of the Texas Education Agency characterized as an indication that the state is recovering well from the impact of the pandemic.
“While we are largely recovering from the effects of the pandemic in reading, much work remains 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 in eighth-grade math.
White and Asian students in Texas continue to outnumber black and Hispanic students.
The test, known as the national report card, was given to 450,000 students nationwide, including 23,000 in Texas, from January to March, and is separate from the State Assessment of Academic Readiness, or STAAR test. While STAAR measures how students test when it comes to Texas curriculum requirements, the national exam is the only one given to students in every state.
“The results show a major impact on student learning during the pandemic, as the magnitude and scope 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 U.S. Department of Education. “The results also highlight the importance of teaching and the role of schools in students’ academic growth and overall well-being.”
Disclosure: Education Trust financially supported The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization funded in part by donations from members, foundations, and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in Tribune journalism. Find a complete list of them here.