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What NAEP scores mean for educators

September 30, 2022


The fast facts

In 2022, the National Center for Education Statistics conducted a special administration of the NAEP long-term trend reading and mathematics assessments to examine student achievement during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Scores from over 7,000 9-year-old students indicated: 

  • Average scores in 2022 declined 5 points in reading and 7 points in mathematics compared to 2020.
  • This decline is the largest average score decline in reading since 1990, and the first-ever score decline in mathematics (since the assessment started in the 1970s).
  • Decades of academic progress in reading and math were erased from 2020 to 2022.
  • With all of the technology, resources and progress in education, today’s 9-year-old students are showing the same test scores in math and reading as 9-year-old students in the early 2000s.
  • Students in the most underserved populations were the most impacted.
  • Students in the bottom 10% in achievement lost four to five times more than students in the top 10%.
  • In math, the bottom 10% of students dropped 12 points.
  • In reading, the bottom 10% of students dropped 10 points.
  • The achievement gap in math between Black and white students widened to 33 points from 25 points in 2020.

Access to resources may have impacted these results

Seventy percent of the students who took the assessment recalled learning remotely last year.  Of those 70%, higher achieving students (within 75th percentile or more) had access to a desktop computer, laptop or tablet all the time; a quiet place to work some of the time; and a teacher available to help them with mathematics or reading schoolwork every day or almost every day compared with lower performers.

Higher-performing students also reported more confidence in their ability to recognize when they don’t understand something they are learning, ask for help when they need it, and find learning resources online to learn more about something they don’t understand compared with their lower-performing peers.

What does this mean for now, and beyond?

These scores are alarming, and there is an urgency to respond strategically and quickly. If these students don’t get access to the right resources and support, they’ll be at greater risk of not learning to read or developing critical math skills. This can have a downstream impact far beyond 4th grade. Now is the time to provide students with what they need to help them find success this year and in the future. So that they can be on the path to graduate on time, pursue post-secondary opportunities and compete in a global economy. In fact, McKinsey issued a report in 2021 that estimates students whose learning was impacted negatively by the pandemic may affect the U.S economy by $128  – $188 billion every year as this cohort of students enters the workforce. 

But there does seem to be hope

There are also other positive data points worth exploring outside of these results. Recent reports based on interim assessments (NWEA MAP) suggest that while scores dropped significantly in 20-21, they began to correct for many students in 21-22. As students returned from remote learning, they have generally showed the type of growth that was typical prior to the pandemic. In many cases, these results have been due to the hard work of dedicated educators. Their tireless commitment has helped some students begin to rebound.  

Some districts have also shown positive results during this time due in part to strategically adopting programs that have been proven to have a positive impact on learning. Schools across the country, serving diverse student populations, are experiencing student learning growth by partnering with DreamBox.

  • Students using DreamBox Math for approximately one hour per week in Compton USD in California saw an increase of two grade levels of growth during the 2020-21 school year.
  • In Pinellas County School in Florida, students who completed five DreamBox Math lessons per week demonstrated over 5 percentage points of growth on NWEA MAP assessments in just eight weeks. Learn more about these results here.
  • During the 2021-22 school year, K  –  2 students in Catoosa County School District in Georgia who completed five or more lessons of DreamBox Math grew 1.10 grade levels since the beginning of the school year.
  • Also in Catoosa, students in grades 3 – 8 using DreamBox Reading (formerly Reading Plus) averaged 2.2 reading level gains since the beginning of the school year. Get the whole story here.

Ready to see how DreamBox Learning programs can help your district help students meet their math and reading goals?



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