Government Report Card Show Nation's Reading, Math Test Scores Tanked During the Pandemic

While learning loss has been readily observed in classrooms across the country in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, perhaps the starkest sign of America’s education crisis is seen in the nation’s test scores, via a report that was released on Monday morning.


An analysis of the nation’s test scores, via the National Assessment of Educational Progress, shows that there was learning loss in all four areas that are tracked – fourth-grade reading, fourth-grade math, eighth-grade reading, and eighth-grade math. This data follows September data that showed the “largest drop in fourth-grade reading scores since 1990 and the first-ever decline in math,” according to the Wall Street Journal.

Overall, scores in math and reading for both fourth- and eighth-grade students have fallen sharply since 2019, the last time the assessments were given, according to the collection of results from 50 states, the District of Columbia and U.S. Department of Defense Education Activity schools. A separate analysis of 26 large-city school districts also showed declines.

Average math scores for eighth-graders in 2022 dropped to 274 out of a possible 500, falling 8 points from 2019. Reading scores declined 3 points, to 260.

No state or jurisdiction posted gains in math in either grade, nor did any of the 26 large districts included in the analysis. Utah was the only state where the drop in the eighth-grade math score wasn’t statistically significant. Nationwide, 38% of eighth-graders tested below basic achievement levels in math. The basic level denotes partial mastery.


The numbers are pretty alarming overall. Among the few bright spots was growth in fourth-grade reading in Hawai’i, Louisiana, and Florida.

“We insisted on keeping schools open and guaranteed in-person learning in 2020 because we knew there would be widespread harm to our students if students were locked out,” said Governor Ron DeSantis in a statement Monday morning. “Today’s results once again prove that we made the right decision.”

Louisiana’s Superintendent of Education, Dr. Cade Brumley, noted the growth in Louisiana’s fourth-grade reading scores but wasn’t completely satisfied.

“I think we have to celebrate the fact that with the literacy crisis in this state we have the largest growth in the country for fourth-grade reading,” Brumley said, but added in a separate statement that the state shouldn’t “chase shiny things and get distracted” and should instead “focus on fundamentals like reading and math, supporting educators, and empowering parents.”

The nation’s report card comes amid concessions that there has been an overall lack of a true national conversation on the effects of COVID-19 policies in public schools.


“I have to say I’m surprised that there hasn’t been a national conversation about the damage done to kids because of these school closures,” CNN’s Jake Tapper said late last week in an interview with former Florida Governor Jeb Bush. Many conservatives pointed out that there was an attempt at a national conversation, but they were ignored and called “science deniers” for their troubles.

Districts and states across the country shut down schools in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic that spread quickly and mercilessly across the world. However, critics of school closures point out the fact that scientific data never showed school-aged students, elementary and middle school students in particular, were highly susceptible to the virus, and to date, there has not been evidence of a single mass spreader event at any school that re-opened during or remained open through the pandemic’s peak.

In the wake of the pandemic and school closures, it has been revealed that the nation’s top teachers unions led the effort to keep schools closed, citing safety concerns that never materialized.

(Read More: It Wasn’t the Pandemic That Set Our Reading and Math Scores Back By Two Decades)


In May of 2021, American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten admitted to coaching the Centers for Disease Control on the talking points they should use regarding school closures after the CDC requested it.

The data we have now indicates that those closures did far more harm than good and as a result of the school closures, our students are further behind than ever.


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