The Nation’s Report Card
The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) is a congressionally mandated program overseen by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), within the U.S. Department of Education and the Institute of Education Sciences. Sometimes called The Nation’s Report Card, NAEP provides a common measure of student achievement in various subjects for 4th-, 8th- , and 12th-grade students.
While state assessments measure student performance based on that state’s curriculum standards, NAEP provides comparisons of results with other states or the nation. NAEP is the only assessment that allows the comparison of results from one state with another or with results nationwide.
FYI: NAEP LTT scores vs main NAEP scores
Earlier this fall, NCES conducted a special administration of the NAEP long-term trend (LTT) reading and mathematics assessments to examine 9-year-old students’ achievement during the COVID-19 pandemic. These scores are different from the scores of the main NAEP. (released October 24, 2022)
In short, the NAEP LTT scores are given to students based on age rather than a grade; these paper-based assessments are not frequently updated to reflect changes in curriculum. The main NAEP assessments are digitally based. There are also different methodologies between the two assessments. You can read our blog about these LTT scores here.
Quick takeaways from NAEP scores
Similar to the NAEP LTT results from earlier this year, these NAEP scores are concerning. Assessment data from 108,000 4th -grade students and 111,000 8th -grade students across every state indicated the following:
- For 4th -grade students, average math scores fell five points since 2019.
- The 8th -grade students fell an average of eight points in math since 2019.
- Only 37% of 4th graders scored proficient in math, and 25% of students did not meet the lowest achievement level, NAEP basic.
- Twenty-seven percent of 8th graders scored proficient in math, and 38% did not meet the lowest achievement level, NAEP basic.
- On a state level:
- In 43 states/jurisdictions,* 4th -grade students demonstrated a drop in math scores, and in 10 states/jurisdictions, 4th -grade students showed no change.
- Eighth-grade students showed a decline in math scores across 51 states/jurisdictions, and only showed no change in two states/jurisdictions.
*Jurisdictions include Puerto Rico, District of Columbia, and DoDEA, a federally operated nonpublic school system responsible for educating children of military families.
- For both 4th and 8th -grade students, average reading scores dropped three points compared to 2019.
- The scores represent the lowest reading scores since the first state-level NAEP in 1992.
- Only 35% of 4th -grade students demonstrated proficiency in reading, while 37% did not meet the lowest achievement level, NAEP basic.
- Only 31% of 8th graders are proficient in reading, and 30% do not meet the lowest achievement level, NAEP basic.
- On a state level:
- In 30 states/jurisdictions,* 4th -grade students demonstrated a drop in reading scores, and in 22 states/jurisdictions, 4th -grade students showed no change.
- Eighth-grade students showed a decline in reading scores across 33 states/jurisdictions, showed no change in 18 states/jurisdictions, and increased their scores by two points in the DoDEA.
- Data analyzed across 26 urban districts indicated only one area of growth for students in the 8th grade. Los Angeles Unified Schools (LAUSD) students demonstrated nine points of growth in reading scores between 2019 and 2022.
- Reading scores for all 8th -grade students decreased across all achievement percentiles.
*Jurisdictions include Bureau of Indian Education schools, District of Columbia, and DoDEA, a federally operated nonpublic school system responsible for educating children of military families.
How can educators respond to this moment?
- Leverage all types of data and explore multiple modes of analysis.
Although NAEP is able to provide valid comparisons across all states, no data should be a single source of truth. A recent article in EdWeek, “NAEP Scores Are a ‘Critical Reality Check.’ Kids Pay the Price If They Are Misinterpreted” , recommends that district leaders remember that data is always nuanced. Although these recent results may be jarring, they must avoid generalizing or cherry-picking data to prove points or make decisions. Instead, researchers advise leaders to carefully disaggregate NAEP data, look at multiple data sources, and dig into understanding individual students and educators in order to inform next steps.
In our recent webinar, Offsetting NAEP scores and getting students on track, Dr. Erik Youngman, Assistant Superintendent at Libertyville School District 70 explained, “Reviewing quantitative data and qualitative data has been important. We can’t just look at some data, and we can’t make an excuse and ignore the data. […] What stories can you understand from teachers and students from feedback, observations, surveys, and conversations? We must get more data to understand the bigger picture.”
- Develop strategic out-of-school time programs.
In LAUSD, the one large urban district that increased reading scores for 8th-grade students, Superintendent Alberto Carvalho cited implementing out-of-school time programs as one successful strategy for proactively addressing learning loss. These efforts included optional acceleration days that provide additional instruction time; expanded tutoring services to assist students during, before, and after school hours; and robust summer school programs. You can download a helpful guide about OST Intervention Models here.
- Identify what’s going well for your district and similar organizations.
Though NAEP results are alarming, there are opportunities for districts to look at what is going well and replicate best practices across their organization. For educators, this is a moment to take inventory of what’s working as well as a chance to look to colleagues and peers for best practices to replicate in your own organization.
- Differentiate learning by providing exactly what students need multiple times per week.
During our NAEP panel discussion, Dr. Youngman shared that in order to focus on students who demonstrated the most decline, their district adopted a unique program WIN time. “We are noticing more students need different types of support and more support as we’re coming off the pandemic, so how can we look at that data differently to sort and support students in a variety of ways? We started WIN Time- ‘What I need time.’ For thirty minutes per day we focus twice a week on math and twice a week on literacy, and one day per week on SEL. We’re looking at data to determine how we can differentiate for students at both the upper end and the lower end.”
- Include all stakeholders in planning for what’s next.
Just as we’re seeing a trend in capturing multiple data sources to inform decisions, educators are also considering multiple stakeholder voices to plan for what’s next. Dr. Youngman explained, “We’re updating and creating a new strategic plan. It’s not just the administrators making this plan. It’s working with the teachers, working with the stakeholders, with community members, with former students, to build a vision for how we help our students as they prepare to be leaders within the world.” This approach ensures that everything from teaching and learning, to building facilities considers all needs.
Be sure to watch a recording of our recent webinar, Offsetting NAEP scores and getting students on track.