American high school seniors’ math scores didn’t improve between 2015 and 2019, while their reading scores fell, according to the latest round of federal test results.
The scores highlight the country’s broader failure to boost student test scores over the last decade and the particular stubbornness of high school reading results, which have actually declined since the early 1990s.
Meanwhile, the gap between the highest- and lowest-performing 12th graders is widening. The same trend was visible in the latest results for fourth and eighth graders.
“In both math and reading, we have noticed a pattern of declining scores that have been concentrated among lower-performing students,” said Peggy Carr, the associate commissioner of the arm of the federal education department that administers the exam. “This is a troubling indication that too many students are falling behind, and it’s something that we want to know more about.”
The scores, released Wednesday, offer a grim picture of American educational outcomes at a moment when the coronavirus pandemic is creating unprecedented new challenges for students. The only piece of potential good news: it’s possible that the lack of progress is connected to rising high school graduation rates, which mean a bigger range of students are remaining in school to take the test in 12th grade.
The National Assessment of Educational Progress, given to a sample of students across the country, is widely seen as one of the best benchmarks of student learning. Unlike many other standardized tests, it does not come with high stakes for students or schools.
Twelfth graders are usually only tested every four years and their results aren’t broken down by state, unlike the more frequent tests of fourth and eighth graders.