December 22, 2022

Washington Students in Grades 4 and 8 are Not Proficient in Math

Guest post by: Susan Baird-Joshi, WSPTA Federal Legislative Chair and Angela Steck, WSPTA Vice President 

Since 1969, the Nation’s Report Card, also known as the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), has been assessing what students know in subjects such as mathematics, reading, and science. On November 15, the National PTA and the National Assessment Governing Board (NAGB) presented the results of the 2022 Nation’s Report card which was the first since the pandemic. Julia Rafal-Baer with NAGB said the test is designed to assess what young people need to be able to do to have a future. The results help us understand how students are doing, set and track goals for education progress and learn about what works to support student success. It’s the only test data consistently collected over decades. The NAGB is a nonpartisan board established by Congress that sets policy for the NAEP. 

In the national student assessment done in 2022, according to the Nation’s Report Card, Washington state students in grades 4 and 8 showed a “significant decrease” in mathematics since the previous assessment year. The last test was administered in 2019. Reading in grade 4 showed “no significant difference” from 2019 test results, while reading in grade 8 also showed a “significant decrease.” 

Across the nation, student performance in reading and math for grades 4 and 8 declined significantly.  Reading results have declined during the pandemic but not as steep as math. More states are holding steady in reading than in math.  

There are three ratings that students can be assigned based upon their performance: Basic, Proficient, Advanced. They can also perform below Basic. 

Nationwide, one quarter of fourth graders can’t locate whole numbers on a number line and 30 percent of 8th graders performed below the basic reading level. 

Concern about the impact of COVID-19 on K-12 education prompted professors at Harvard University and Stanford University to develop the Education Recovery Scorecard, (ERS). According to project co-leader Dr. Thomas Kane with Harvard, the ERS is an opportunity to assess learning loss at the school district level, comparing pre-pandemic and post-pandemic scores (2019 and 2022). 

Kane said each state has been releasing state assessments and defines proficiency differently. This project combines district-reported results from 2019 and 2022 with the NAEP to compare achievement losses by district and subgroup on a similar scale using grade equivalents. So far, 29 states have released data. 

Based upon this analysis, Kane said the pandemic widened achievement gaps. Some school districts lost three-quarters or more of a school year in effective learning. Achievement losses were significantly larger in high poverty school districts. Inequity increased a lot during COVID. 

Both Rafal-Baer and Kane said PTA members can help make parents and school districts aware of the results by using the online tools and sharing the results. Having those conversations now can help education leaders plan for the summer of 2023. 

Kane said that some intervention strategies they evaluated for impact included tutors, double math sessions and summer school. Even if a district implemented all three methods, the sum of the effects of those methods was only a multiplier increase of 0.295 years of progress. Kane said this “ambitious” plan was still “under-sized” to achieve the desired improvements in assessment scores. 

Washington State PTA’s legislative platform adopted for 2023-2024 includes issues related to improving education outcomes and increasing education funding and expanding the effective educator workforce. To learn more, visit our WSPTA Advocacy webpage. 

“The results of the 2022 NAEP and ERS, released last month, provide the most comprehensive picture of what’s going on to date with the COVID-19 pandemic impact on student achievement and underscores the critical need for strong family and school partnerships” remarked Anna King, National PTA President.  

A playback of the National PTA’s discussion with NAGB on results from the 2022 Nation’s Report Card is available here.  

Find out more about the results for Washington state or to find your school district’s results.

Category: Advocacy

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