US Reading and Math Scores for 13-Year-Olds Declined To Lowest Level in Decades

US Reading and Math Scores for 13-Year-Olds Declined To Lowest Level in Decades
  • The school shutdowns that began in 2020 had a severe impact on children.
  • Assessments show 13-year-olds are experiencing a historic degree of difficulty with math and reading.
  • Math scores fell 9 points in the last three years.
  • Reading scores fell 4 points.

( – In 2020, kids across the country were sent home one day and didn’t go back to school. Schools shut down for more than a year in some places, leaving children to learn virtually. The lockdowns had devastating effects on children. Not only was their mental health impacted, but data now shows their education was as well.

The Scores Are In

The National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP), or the “Nation’s Report Card,” was recently released, and it shows the largest-ever drops in math scores. It also showed declining reading scores for some of the country’s children since the organization began administering the long-term trend (LTT) math and reading assessments in the 1970s.

According to the results, 13-year-olds so the largest drop. In 2020, this age group scored an average of 260, but in 2023, they got just 256 in the reading assessment. The mathematics test scores are even worse. In 2020, the teens averaged 280, but in 2023 the score was just 271. That’s four and nine points, respectively.

Students who are 13 now were in 4th or 5th grade when the schools were shut down. That’s a pivotal time in education, where they are transitioning from the basics to a more complicated curriculum. The National Center for Education Statistics administers the Nation’s Report Card. Its commissioner, Peggy Carr, told Education Week that the results of the assessments showed “troubling gaps” for the young teens.

Carr explained that the country likely sees that the “learning disruptions further undermined the development of basic skills” the students should have learned at that age. She said the results were even worse for kids who were already struggling before the shutdowns.

Response to Results

Senator Bill Cassidy (R-LA) spoke to POLITICO and said, “Students are entering high school who cannot read.” He argued that parents having the freedom of school choice could help ease the problem. However, he did not address how lawmakers plan to fix the disparities in struggling public schools.

On June 21, US Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona issued a statement confirming the shutdowns have a “devastating impact on students’ learning across the country.” He said President Joe Biden’s administration recognizes that it will “take years of effort and investment to reverse the damage” and address the decline. The administration is asking states to spend the money they have from the American Rescue Plan to support academic recovery.

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