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New test results reveal devastating impact of COVID on schoolchildren

We all know that COVID has ravaged our health, but the wider effects are still being felt.

One of the effects was on student performance, as shown by the results of the 9-year-old American kid who was released Thursday.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the average reading score in 2022 is down five points on a 500-point scale from 2020, the largest decline since 1990. The maths average fell by seven points on the same scale, marking the first time the subject has dropped.

Chart shows change in reading and mathematics scores

The results add to a long-held suspicion that distance learning during COVID is not ideal, although the report does not directly address the issue.

Tested on a national sample of 7,400 9-year-olds and compared with results from the same age group in early 2020 before the pandemic caused widespread disruption to learning. These long-term trend assessments are typically done every four years, but NCES chose to conduct these tests after two years to provide data investigating the impact of COVID.

The report grades students at five selected percentiles: 10th and 25th percentiles (lower), 50th percentile (middle), and 75th and 90th percentiles (higher) to measure their progress. Compared with two years ago, all five percentiles of reading and math scores have fallen in 2022.

In addition, lower performing students showed a higher rate of decline than other students, meaning that those who were already struggling with their subjects were more vulnerable to changes in learning and, as a result, performed worse. Those in the 10th percentile dropped 12 points in math and 10 points in reading over two years. At the same time, from 2020 to 2022, students in the 90th percentile dropped three points in math and two points in reading.

Digging deeper, NCES found a 13-point drop in math scores among black students. White students dropped five points. The results showed that the existing black and white score gap widened to 33 points. In 2020, the gap is 25 points.

Report points to link between access to resources and better performers, as some 75% or more of students “always” have easier access to a computer or laptop, a quiet place Work “sometimes” and have a teacher to help “every day or almost every day” compared to less than 25% of poor performers.

In general, math scores have trended upward since the test was introduced in the early 1970s, and reading scores have trended upwards until a slight downward trend in the 1990s. However, there was this particular drop in both subjects from the late 1990s to the 2000s, which showed that students were being affected by the pandemic.

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