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North Carolina 4th and 8th graders see decline in math and reading test scores

The National Assessment of Educational Progress tracked national and state exams given between 2019 through 2022 and saw a large decline in results.

GREENSBORO, N.C. — The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) exam scores were released Monday.        

Nationwide, the results show students in fourth and eighth grade saw declines in math and reading between 2019 and 2022. It relates it back to the pandemic and the disruption caused by Covid-19.

The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction responded to the NAEP scores. The department said the results generally mirrored the national decline in reading and math skills as schools are beginning to recover from the disruptions for Covid-19. 

“These findings reflect what our Office of Learning Recovery identified in March of this year regarding the effects of lost instructional time and reaffirms our commitment to working towards recovery and acceleration statewide,” State Superintendent of Public Instruction Catherine Truitt said.

The department said it's providing professional development for 44,000 elementary school educators in the science of reading. 

North Carolina was among 30 states that saw statistically significant declines in average reading scores at the fourth grade from 2019 to 2022 and among 33 states with declines in eighth grade reading scores. 

No gains were made by any state/jurisdiction in reading at the fourth grade, and only Department of Defense schools made a gain in their eighth-grade reading score.

North Carolina was one of 43 states that also lost ground on their fourth-grade math scores and one of 51 states with declines in eighth grade math scores. No state/jurisdiction showed a gain in math in either fourth or eighth grade.  

Guilford County Schools responded to the test scores being released. 

The district stated the results showed a national crisis in education that extends to all large districts, including Guilford County Schools. 

GCS students saw a drop as well in reading and math scores but the district said students were outperforming averages for large districts.

Superintendent Dr. Whitney Oakley stated in a press release that the pandemic has been the most disruptive force in education in a century. 

“The disruptions of the COVID-19 pandemic exposed historical systemic gaps in our nation’s education systems and these data make clear that there is an urgent need to accelerate learning,” said Superintendent Dr. Whitney Oakley. “We have a stronger foundation to build upon in Guilford County than in many other large districts."

Oakley stated that the students outperformed the national large city averages across most demographics and the achievement gaps are lower than many of our peer districts. 

"That does not mean our local crisis is any less urgent," stated Oakley. "Student performance is down in our county and we need to embrace community-wide efforts to accelerate learning.”

The district said Oakley continues to prioritize high-dosage tutoring, extending learning time and providing student access to grade-level content.

NAEP tests differ from other tests and students in grades four and eight are randomly selected for testing, either in reading or math. 

There were more than 400,000 students at  5,000 schools that were tested nationwide in January, February and March 2022, during the height of the Omicron COVID-19 outbreak. 

In Guilford County Schools, approximately 3,600 students participated in NAEP testing.

Here's a look at the numbers in Guilford County Schools.

Fourth Grade Math and Reading: 

The average score for fourth graders in Math dropped seven points from 2019. This was similar to the large city average, which fell eight points. 

The average score for fourth graders in Reading dropped seven points from 2019. This is more than the large city score, which fell three points. Also, black students outscored national, state and large city averages.

Eighth Grade Math and Reading:

The average score for eighth graders in Math dropped 10 points from 2019. That decline is similar to the large city average, which fell eight points. Also, both black students and students with disabilities averaged higher math scores than the nation, state and large cities.

The average score for eighth graders in Reading dropped six points from 2019. The large city average score didn't drop or raise from 2019 

Guilford County Schools staff will discuss the NAEP results during their Board of Education meeting on November 15th at 6 p.m. in the High Point City Council Chambers.

Alamance-Burlington Schools System responded to the results as well. 

The district stated it is prioritizing classroom instruction time and minimizing teacher responsibilities outside the classroom. The District is also focusing on building relationships with students and families that will improve outcomes.  

“ABSS is being consistent with our standards that are being taught and administration realizes that the experts are the teachers in our classrooms and they have been given the autonomy to creatively teach and assess all students,” said Dr. Dain Butler, Superintendent.

ABSS has also implemented an intervention enrichment period this year at all K-12 schools which allows students an opportunity to individually make academic progress.  

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