NAEP testing data reveals decreasing subject proficiency scores


Philipos Alebachew

Students in Bryce Wada’s Dual Credit math class study polynomial and rational functions for their upcoming test.

Ayma Malik, Opinion and A&E Editor

After testing 446,700 fourth and eighth graders across the country, the National Assessment of Education, or NAEP, found some of the largest decreases the country has seen in math and reading.

Some teachers believe the reason for lower scores stems back to the fourth quarter of 2020 that was lost when schools closed because of COVID-19. 

“[During fourth quarter of 2020] that material never even got taught at all,” math teacher Tawanna Ervin said. “I think that a lot of people forget that. I had even forgotten that. Last year when we were doing quadratics somebody said, ‘We’d never learned that because that was fourth quarter of Algebra I.’ And so I just had to go slower, because it was the first time that they had seen a lot of that material.”  

In addition, the key concepts that were taught online were not necessarily retained by students.

“This year, I see some gaps in the calculus kids because to be good in calculus, you have to be good in algebra,” Ervin said. “And so these kids are all the kids that were online for Algebra II. Their algebra is not quite as strong as it would have been if they were in the classroom.” 

For some teachers, looking at the data includes considering different variables that could have impacted the results. 

“A lot of it we have to consider  how many students were actually being tested,” English 12 teacher Whitney Lopez said. “In terms of the number of students that were being tested and how they were essentially pulling that data, and whether or not they were effectively looking at it. Considering what was happening within the pandemic, because learning loss is one thing. But then we also have to consider in terms of how we as teachers can make it better. It’s looking at where students left off, and then trying to bring them up and then reinforce what we can.”

Lopez tracks the growth of her students throughout the year and tries to vary the kinds of materials she uses to encourage engagement.

“A lot of it comes down to the assignments that I give them,” Lopez said. “It’s pretty much skills, what are the skills that we can help them with? And it’s not just using the same old stories and things that they’ve already been exposed to, keeping it fresh. Keeping it engaging, so that they’re actually wanting to participate more and also help with reinforcing those skills. [For example] for short stories, I try to use fairy tales, fables and nursery rhymes because it not only keeps the students reading, it also helps them connect the content in those stories to pop culture references they may see on social media.”

Some students believe these scores could be higher if the district put more funds into updating course curriculums and finding qualified teachers. 

“More funds towards better education in those areas would probably bring those scores up,” junior Logan Ford said. “If the scores are dropping so drastically, there has to be some reason why. I feel like many teachers, especially at a lower level, are unqualified, or at least just barely qualified. It’s not hard material, you don’t need to be a genius to teach eighth grade math, but at this point it feels like the teachers aren’t even qualified in the first place.”