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New Study: Students’ Scores Show ‘Steep Declines’ in Math, Reading

Thirteen-year-olds are “struggling academically amid achievement declines that worsened during the pandemic, particularly in math,” according to a new study published by The Nation’s Report Card. 

Averages declined 9 points in math and 4 points in reading when compared to the previous test completed in 2020. More drastically, the results pale in comparison to scores from a decade earlier, sliding by 14 points in math and 7 points in reading. 

Taken by 8,700 7th and 8th graders last fall, the test was administered by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), who categorized the data into five selected percentile levels (10th, 25th, 50th, 75th and 90th). Each subgroups’ math results dipped, ranging from a 6 to 8-point slide for middle- and higher-performing students to 12 to 14 points for lower-performing students. Reading scores had similar, though less dramatic, outcomes with declines from 3 to 4 points for middle- and higher-performing students and 6 to 7 points for lower-performing students. 

When examining different regions (Northeast, Midwest, South and West), the Northeast’s scores dropped 8 points in reading and 11 points in math, tying the Midwest for the worst dip in reading, while suffering the second worst decline in math. In math, the Midwest fared the worst (12-point decline). 

Even though the study did not highlight results on a state-to-state basis, NAEP scores released last October indicate that while Connecticut’s scores declined, the state’s students fared better than the national average overall (see charts below). However, in the same assessment, Connecticut’s test scores dropped faster than the national average — falling by 5 points (fourth-grade reading); 6 points (eighth-grade reading); 7 points (fourth-grade mathematics); and 10 points (eighth-grade mathematics). Comparatively, national average scores dipped by 3 points (fourth- and eighth-grade reading), 5 points (fourth-grade mathematics) and 8 points (eighth-grade mathematics).   

The Constitution State, however, did not suffer the most significant drops with Virginia (-10), Maine (-8), Delaware (-14), and Oklahoma (-13) outpacing the race to the bottom, respectively. 

In the Nation’s Report Card’s press release, Beverly Perdue National Assessment Governing Board chair and former North Carolina governor — said students are “struggling across the board” and that “Educators, policymakers, and families need to work together urgently and decisively to address this generation’s learning needs.”  

But action should not necessarily be throwing more money at the problem. According to a new study published by Yankee Institute and conducted by the Connecticut Center for Educational Excellence (CTCEE) in partnership with the University of New Haven’s Liberty Initiative, increased state spending does not reduce the education achievement gap.  

Despite boasting some of the nation’s best performing schools, Connecticut likewise has some of the country’s widest disparities in academic performance with the state, a phenomenon known as the “achievement gap.” 

The study notes that Litchfield has the highest spending per student at $23,387, while Tolland spends an average of $16,972. The latter, however, still ranks in the top three counties across all academic performance scores. Although the two counties have the widest gap in per-pupil spending between districts, they have the narrowest achievement gap in each category across all districts. 

Ultimately, rather than simply spending more in lower-performing districts, policymakers, educators and the community at-large will have to find creative ways to address the national slide in both math and reading. 

NAEP’s October Test Results: Connecticut  

Math Grade 4 

Year  Score (Scale Range 0-500)  Difference from National Public  At or above proficient 
2022  236.36  +1.50  37.01 
2019  243.26  +3.26  45.00 
2017  239.24  +0.07  39.92 
2015  240.16  +0.31  40.89 
2013  243.44  +2.26  45.15 
2011  242.41  +2.30  45.45 


Reading Grade 4 

Year  Score (Scale Range 0-500)  Difference from National Public  At or above proficient 
2022  219.15  +3.03  34.62 
2019  224.35  +4.91  40.12 
2017  228.36  +7.54  42.73 
2015  228.95  +7.59  43.46 
2013  229.58  +8.91  42.56 
2011  227.43  +7.40  42.00 


Math Grade 8 

Year  Score (Scale Range 0-500)  Difference from National Public  At or above proficient 
2022  276.49  +3.36  29.95 
2019  286.16  +5.17  39.23 
2017  284.14  +2.19  36.22 
2015  283.96  +2.68  36.06 
2013  285.24  +1.63  37.11 
2011  287.00  +4.27  38.13 


Reading Grade 8 

Year  Score (Scale Range 0-500)  Difference from National Public  At or above proficient 
2022  263.81  +4.70  34.77 
2019  269.72  +7.72  41.01 
2017  272.54  +7.21  43.76 
2015  273.05  +9.05  43.27 
2013  274.46  +8.44  45.10 
2011  274.68  +11.09  44.72 

Andrew Fowler

Andrew Fowler joined Yankee Institute in July 2022 after four years in the communications department for the Knights of Columbus international headquarters in New Haven. In that span, he managed the organization’s social media accounts and wrote for the company’s various publications, including COLUMBIA magazine, which is delivered to nearly two million members. Additionally, he is the curator of the Blessed Michael McGivney Pilgrimage Center’s online exhibit “K of C Baseball: An American Story,” that explores the intricate ties between the organization and the growth of the national pastime. He was also a production assistant for MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” and the 2016 Dinesh D’Souza film, “Hillary’s America.” Andrew currently serves on the Milford Board of Education. He is an avid runner and basketball fan, cinephile, and an aspiring musician and author. He graduated from the University of Connecticut in 2015.

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