The first nationwide examination of student learning during the pandemic revealed serious declines across the country, though Texas improved its rank in fourth and eighth grade reading and in eighth grade math. Reading scores for Black students also improved more than all other states over the past three years, and Texas ranked first in the country in eighth grade math scores for Black students.
The results of the National Assessment of Educational Progress — often referred to as the Nation’s Report Card — reinforce “the importance of instruction and the role of schools in both students’ academic growth and their overall wellbeing,” said Peggy Carr, commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics, which administers the exam.
The NAEP is typically administered every two years to a sample of students in fourth and eighth grades, though the 2021 assessment was delayed a year due to the pandemic. The national assessment provides a good measure of comparison with other states and urban school districts in reading and math.
Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath credited the “hard work of Texas teachers and students” for the state’s “notable and mostly positive” performance when compared to the rest of the country:
A survey of the test-takers provided some insight into how the remote learning environment affected student performance. A greater percentage of high-performing students had access to a computer all the time and a quiet place to work at least some of the time. For eighth graders, regular real-time video lessons with their teacher were key.
The test results, however, did not settle the debate over pandemic-related school closures.
“There’s nothing in this data that says we can draw a straight line between the time spent and remote learning, in and of itself, and student achievement,” Carr said. “We have massive comprehensive declines everywhere, where in some cases, they were in remote learning longer or shorter than others. It’s just too complex to draw the straight line.”