Math and reading scores plummeted after school lockdowns prompted by the Covid pandemic, The New York Times reports.
Math scores saw their biggest declines ever recorded by the National Assessment of Educational Progress.
Math scores for eighth graders fell in nearly every state.
Only 26% of eighth graders were proficient, down from 34% in 2019.
Fourth-grade proficiency also declined in 41 states, falling to 36% from 41% in 2019.
Reading scores also declined in more than half of states, with only about a third of students meeting proficiency standards.
No state showed a significant improvement in reading.
“Appalling and unacceptable”:
“I want to be very clear: The results in today’s nation’s report card are appalling and unacceptable,” said Education Secretary Miguel Cardona. “This is a moment of truth for education. How we respond to this will determine not only our recovery, but our nation’s standing in the world.”
The federal government last year invested $123 billion — about $2,400 per student — to help kids catch up. But funding is set to expire in 2024 and experts believe it will take years and billions more to recover to 2019 levels.
What about states that lifted lockdowns?
Though the drop comes after pandemic lockdowns, researchers cautioned against drawing simple conclusions.
Texas, for example, reopened schools earlier than most states but posted similar declines in math scores as the national average.
California, which kept schools closed longer, saw smaller declines than the national average, as did Florida, which led the nation in school reopenings.
“Comparing states is tricky and people will likely go to red state, blue state, which is not the most helpful framing,” Stanford Prof. Sean Reardon told the Times.