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WASHINGTON – The first government report to compare student achievement from before the pandemic through 2022 found the largest decline in reading scores since 1990, and the first-ever drop in math scores.

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The National Center for Education Statistics examined national achievement tests for 9-year-old students in 2022 as compared to 2020. NCES found that the average reading score dropped 5 points, and the average math score dropped 7 points.

The National Assessment of Educational Progress was first administered in 1969 and is referred to as the “Nation’s Report Card,” because it offers the largest representative assessment of the nation’s students.

“These are some of the largest declines we have observed in a single assessment cycle in 50 years of the NAEP program,” acting NCES associate commissioner Daniel McGrath said in a statement. “Students in 2022 are performing at a level last seen two decades ago.”

The test scores saw the largest drop among the lowest-performing students, with those in the bottom 10th percentile seeing a 12-point drop in math scores and a 10-point drop in reading scores, according to an NCES news release.

“These results are sobering,” Peggy Carr, NCES commissioner, told The Washington Post. “It’s clear that COVID-19 shocked American education and stunted the academic growth of this age group.”

The test results released Thursday were only for 9-year-olds, who are typically in the fourth grade. More results, including those for eighth graders, are expected to be released this fall on a state level, The New York Times reported.

Changes in NAEP long-term trend reading and mathematics average scores for 9-year-old students, by school l… by National Content Desk on Scribd

Carr told The Washington Post that while the COVID-19 pandemic undoubtedly had a large impact on test scores, other factors also contextualize the data, including school violence, cyberbullying, and teacher and staff vacancies.

The federal government has pledged $122 billion for student recovery, with at least 20% of the money being spent on academic catch-up, The New York Times reported.