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Elizabeth Nolan Brown

Student Math and Reading Scores Have Dropped Significantly Since 2019

New results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress offer more evidence that students fell significantly behind during school shutdowns. Across most states and demographic groups, 2022 math and reading scores are down relative to 2019—falling to their lowest levels since the 1990s in reading. But there's a small silver lining: the data suggest students began this year to recover from pandemic disruptions.

The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) is a test given to fourth and eighth graders. It bills itself as the "nation's report card." And the report this year isn't great.

"In 2022, the average fourth-grade mathematics score decreased by 5 points and was lower than all previous assessment years going back to 2005," the NAEP's report card says. "The average eighth-grade mathematics score decreased by 8 points compared to 2019 and was lower than all previous assessment years going back to 2003."

Average reading scores for fourth and eighth graders were down 3 points relative to 2019. "At fourth grade, the average reading score was lower than all previous assessment years going back to 2005 and was not significantly different in comparison to 1992," the report card says. "At eighth grade, the average reading score was lower compared to all previous assessment years going back to 1998 and was not significantly different compared to 1992."

The NAEP exams are "administered by federal officials and is considered more rigorous than many state tests," reports The New York Times. This year's test included almost 450,000 students from more than 10,000 schools.

These results are only the latest to suggest that students fell behind during the early parts of the pandemic, when schools shut down and many students went through long periods of remote instruction. In September, the National Center for Education Statistics "released new data showing a dramatic decline in test scores among American 9-year-olds since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic," as Reason's Emma Camp wrote at the time. And it's not just young children who seem to have suffered—ACT scores are also at their lowest point in three decades.

The latest evidence has kicked off a debate over how much of the decline can be attributed to school shutdowns and whether we're starting to see some student recovery in 2022. Chalkbeat reports:

Peggy Carr, head of the U.S. Department of Education center that administers the exams, said, "There is nothing in this data that tells us there is a measurable difference between states and districts based solely on how long schools were closed." The center did not provide any specific analysis on this issue, though.

A Chalkbeat analysis of the data found mixed evidence. In fourth grade math, states where schools were fully open for longer tended to see smaller declines in scores. In eighth grade math and fourth grade reading there was also a relationship, but it was very modest. In eighth grade reading, there was no correlation at all.

Overall, "correlation with state-level Covid policies is much weaker than I'd have thought," tweeted Matthew Yglesias. But if you look at just 2021 data, he added, the correlation is stronger. Such results suggest "that Zoom School was bad but also that some states have been much more effective than others in bouncing back," he said.

State-level test results also suggest "variation in recovery," according to the Brown University economist Emily Oster.

As for the NAEP data, more in-person schooling was generally consistent with less decline in NAEP math scores, wrote Oster. ("Interesting outliers: California, Hawaii.") In reading scores, there was "no relationship; overall smaller losses, as in the state-level data," she tweeted


The internet's ultimate censors. Internet infrastructure companies—the backend services that keep websites humming—may be the next front in online culture/censorship wars, I suggest at Persuasion:

It was once pretty uncontroversial that the backend businesses of the digital sphere didn't—and shouldn't—exercise a sort of editorial discretion when choosing who they provide services to. Registering a domain was not an endorsement of that domain. Helping secure a site against malicious attacks didn't mean you were aligned with that site's message.

Unfortunately, the public—or at least the extremely online or political portions of it—seems to be moving away from this understanding. More and more, we see social, legal, and political pressure being applied to internet infrastructure companies, urging them to stop providing services for social media applications or websites because of content they publish, communication they permit, or users they allow. Sometimes, as with Kiwi Farms, 8chan, and Parler, these pressure campaigns are successful.

More here.


A federal court has hit pause on Biden's student loan forgiveness plan. On Friday night, the court temporarily blocked the plan, issuing a stay on enforcement as judges review a legal challenge brought by six states. Here's more from Reason's Eric Boehm:

A day earlier, federal district Judge Henry Autrey had rejected a challenge brought by a group of Republican attorneys general from six states. Although the case raised "important and significant challenges" to Biden's student debt relief plan, Autrey ultimately ruled that the state governments lacked standing—that is, the right to bring a case based on a demonstration of harm and potential remedy.

That decision was immediately appealed to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis, which issued the administrative stay on Friday night. In the order, the court told the Biden administration to take no further action on the debt relief plan until full consideration of the case could occur.


People always believe that current moment is uniquely momentous—and so it goes today, with a majority of voters in a recent NBC poll (57 percent) saying the 2022 midterm elections are more important than midterm elections past. This view makes more sense when you consider how many people believe that stopping their opponents from gaining power is essential for the fate of freedom/democracy/all-that-is-good. Eighty-one percent of Democrats surveyed and 79 percent of Republicans say the other side's agenda "will destroy America as we know it" if not checked. Fifty-four percent of independents agreed with regard to Republicans, and 43 percent agreed with regard to Democrats. The causes for this are probably myriad, but one overlooked fact is the extent to which government is now involved in seemingly all aspects of American lives.

See also:


• Rishi Sunak will be the next U.K. Prime Minister.

• Today marks the beginning of the Trump Organization's tax fraud trial.

• A California judge has ruled in favor of Cathy Miller of Tastries Bakery, which declined to make a same-sex wedding cake.

• Stop holding pregnant migrants in detention for longer than necessary, the American Civil Liberties Union and 136 other groups and/or medical professionals are urging Customs and Border Protection.

• "The Texas Department of Public Safety has fired an officer who was among the responders to the mass shooting in Uvalde amid intense scrutiny into how law enforcement reacted as the tragedy unfolded," reports Buzzfeed. "Sgt. Juan Maldonado is the first member of the state police force to be fired after the fallout of the shooting in May that killed 19 children and 2 teachers."

• An Ohio ballot initiative known as Issue 1 "is aimed not just at making safety a consideration for cash bail…but also at removing the Ohio Supreme Court from oversight of bail rules, effectively giving that power exclusively to lawmakers," warns the editorial board of the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

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