The nation’s report card shows the resounding effects of COVID-19

Skyline High School custodian Stephanie Harrill sets up desks in a freshly cleaned classroom athe school in Millcreek in July 2020.

Stephanie Harrill, Skyline High School custodian, sets up desks in a cleaned classroom at Skyline High School in Millcreek on July 23, 2020.

Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

The National Assessment Governing Board released the Nation’s Report Card Monday, showing the biggest decline in mathematic scores ever, while reading scores stay relatively the same following the pandemic.

This year’s national report card covers from 2019 — just before the pandemic — to 2022. Nationally, the fourth grade average mathematics score dropped five points and the eighth grade score dropped eight points. Reading dropped three points for both grades.

The study assesses math and reading ability for students in fourth and eighth grades, as those grades learn foundational concepts for future learning, according to the press release by the National Center for Education Statistics.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in early 2020, the way students participated in school drastically changed and education moved online to reduce the spread of the virus.

Commissioner Peggy Carr of the National Center for Education Statistics said in the press release that obstacles during the pandemic included at-school difficulties and at-home difficulties. At school, students experienced decreased access to resources, teacher shortages and increased at-school violence as the schools reopened. Personal difficulties such as cyberbullying and at-home instability contributed to lower test scores, too.

All of which, the study shows, affected the quality of education.

While math scores experienced the biggest decline ever — with scores declining in 51 U.S. states and jurisdictions — reading levels continued to experience resiliency in urban areas.

This is because more people in the general community are more comfortable helping students with reading, compared to mathematics, Carr said, per NPR.

She termed them “pockets of remarkable resilience.”

The study also found a gap that was widened by the pandemic’s unique circumstances.

Higher-performing students — compared to lower-performing students — were shown to have more access to resources such as a quiet place to work, a teacher available to help with school work and a computer, laptop or tablet to work on schoolwork.

“Academic recovery cannot simply be about returning to what was ‘normal’ before the pandemic, as the pandemic laid bare an ‘opportunity gap’ that has long existed,” said Carr.

Miguel Cardona, the nation’s education secretary, agreed that moving forward and bettering education is more important than dwelling on the past.

“I want to be very clear: The results of today’s nation’s report card are appalling and unacceptable,” Cardona said in a press conference, per NPR. “They are a reminder of the impact this pandemic had on our learners and the important work we must do now for our students. This is a moment of truth for education. How we respond to this is how we determine not only our recovery but our nation’s standing in the world.”