Recent data from the National Assessment of Academic Progress (NAEP), also known as the “Nation’s Report Card,” reveals a significant decline in reading and math scores for 13-year-olds. The results highlight the academic failures caused by COVID lockdowns and school closures.

The average scores in reading have dropped to levels last observed in the 1970s, eliminating years of progress and substantial public investments. The situation is even more alarming for disadvantaged students, as those in the bottom quarter of achievement exhibit lower reading proficiency than their peers in 1971, marking the lowest scores ever recorded. In math, the bottom 10% of students have reached their all-time low.

The achievement gap between Black and white students has also widened in the past decade. However, private school scores were not reported due to insufficient participation, except for Catholic schools, where the scores remained relatively stable and showed no statistically significant changes. This information prompts further consideration as more states contemplate school choice policies.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), the latest assessment results indicate a decline in scores for 13-year-old students in reading and mathematics. The average scores decreased by 4 points in reading and 9 points in mathematics compared to the previous assessment conducted in the 2019-20 school year. In comparison to a decade ago, there has been a decline of 7 points in reading scores and 14 points in mathematics scores.

In reading, the 2023 scores for public school students decreased by 5 points compared to 2012, with a further decline of 6 points from 2020. The current score for public school students is 254. On the other hand, Catholic school students maintained their scores, with no statistically significant changes observed between 2012, 2020, and 2023, with scores of 277 and 275, respectively.

In mathematics, public school students experienced a decline in scores from 284 in 2012 to 279 in 2020, and a further decrease to 269 in 2023. The change between 2020 and 2023 was a decline of 10 points. Catholic school students scored higher overall, with scores of 295 in 2012, 293 in 2020, and 289 in 2023.

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