Why NAEP scores declined: Fordham’s Michael Petrilli weighs in

By October 21, 2021 News

New NAEP scores, released this month, revealed declines in both reading and math among 13-year-olds. Compared to 2012, reading scores dropped 3 points; math scores declined 5 points.

NAEP, or the National Assessment of Educational Progress, is widely know as “The Nation’s Report Card.” New scores are from NAEP’s long-term trend assessments.

Why have the scores declined?

Keep in mind these scores reflect pre-pandemic learning. To what should we attribute the downturn? While acknowledging that no one really knows, Michael Petrilli, the president of the Fordham Institute and executive editor of Education Next, presents a theory. The Great Recession may be to blame, he says. Here’s his take:

The thirteen-year-olds who took the Long Term Trend exam in January 2020 would have been babies when the economy started falling apart in 2007. Parents were thrown out of work. Many families were thrown into poverty. And the hardship was deep and long lasting. It would have been a miracle had such shocks not had a negative impact on the academic and non-cognitive development of these children.

Challenges from the pandemic will compound learning difficulties. So, what will it take to turn things around? Petrilli writes:

Changing the course of history for this cohort of kids is the challenge at hand today. Accelerating student learning will take commitment, smarts, and the political will to invest federal relief funds strategically. A decade ago, it’s now pretty clear to me, we failed to rise to the challenge in the wake of the Great Recession. Let us not repeat the same mistakes again.