Student Math and Reading Scores Drop After Covid, Intervention Can Help

Student math and reading abilities suffered during the turmoil and disruptions caused by school closures, partial re-opens, distant learning, school absences and teacher shortages during the Covid pandemic. New data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress’ Long Term Trend test, showed historic declines in 9-year-old’s achievement in 2022.* 

Results showed math scores dropped by 7 points; while student reading scores declined by 5 points. The NAEP indicated, “This is the largest average score decline in reading since 1990, and the first ever score decline in mathematics.” 

Data comparing results from 2022 against 2021 showed both reading and math score declines for all five reported percentiles: lower (10th and 25th percentiles), middle (50th percentile) and higher (75 to 90 percentile) of student performance. Those students in the lower percentile group (10 and 25) saw a drop of 8 to 10 points; while the middle percentile group dropped 4 points and the highest performers only saw a 2-to-3-point drop in test scores.* 

Students who took the tests were also asked to provide information about their remote learning experiences during the 2020-21 school year. Researchers found that 83% of those students who scored at or above the 75th percentile in reading had access to a desktop computer, laptop or tablet at home. However, only 58% of students who scored at or below the 25% percentile indicated they had access to any of these technology tools. The study also indicated discrepancies among students access to high-speed internet, a quiet place to work and teacher availability for help with assignments.* 

Additionally, students in the higher performing percentile expressed more confidence in their abilities to learn remotely. NAEP stated, “Higher-performing students reported more confidence in their ability to recognize when they don’t understand something they are learning, ask for help when they need it, and find learning resources online to learn more about something they don’t understand compared to their lower-performing peers.* 

Declines in student achievement scores for math and reading were also studied by the NWEA, a research-based non-profit focused on providing assessment solutions that measure growth and proficiency. This study was based upon student achievement for scores of 8.3 million students in grade 3-6 who took MAP™ Growth™ assessments in reading and math in approximately 25,000 public schools between 2018-19 and 2021-22. This data was compared to a sample of students of comparable size who were tested between 2015-16 and 2018-19. Results showed math declines of 5 to 10 percentile points and 2 to 4 percentile points in reading. ** 

 How to Help? 

Intervention has been proven to help struggling students make up ground. Those who were struggling before the pandemic can benefit from individualized and intensive high-dosage tutoring. The University of ChicagoEducation Labreleased a study that concluded this type of tutoring can double or triple the amount of math high school students learn each year as well as helping to increase student grades and reduce math and non-math course failures.*** This study also found student learning gains persisted a year or two after tutoring with gains in math test scores, GPA, and graduation levels. In addition, high-dosage math tutoring showed student grades not only increased in math, but also non-math courses.***

Districts Using ESSER III Funding: 

On a positive note, a newFutureEdanalysis showed 40% of school districts and charter organizations have plans to use their federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER III) money for tutoring and academic coaching services for students. In addition, 37 state education agencies have budgeted for tutoring in their ESSER plans.**** 

The research-based evidence makes clear that students are still struggling with learning gaps. However, programs like intense, high dosage tutoring are a positive step schools can take to help address and close academic learning gaps. SmartStart Education is already partnering with schools in Baltimore, Washington D.C., New York City, Connecticut and Virginia to ensure that every student has ongoing access to a high-quality, empowered teacher. To learn more about our programs, visit our website at