Six puzzling questions from the disastrous NAEP results

Suburban 9-year-olds drove the nationwide decline in reading scores during the pandemic. In math, all groups of students deteriorated. Credit: Allison Shelley for EDUimages

School started on an ominous note this year. On Sept.1, the U.S. Department of Education released disastrous test results. Based on a sample of more than 7,000 9-year-olds around the country, two decades of academic progress in reading and math were erased from 2020 to 2022. But the scores also raised many questions. I will try to answer six of them here. (Thank you to everyone on Twitter who challenged me to explain numbers that seem to be nonsensical and contradictory.) 

Q. How can 9-year-olds lose 20 years of academic progress? They weren’t even born 20 years ago. 

A. Today’s 9-year-olds today are posting the same test scores in reading and math as an earlier generation of 9-year-olds did back in the early 2000s. In other words, children today are reading and adding about as well as children the same age did 20 years ago. 

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