American Middle School Reading and Math Scores Drop Dramatically

The most recent test scores for American middle school students’ proficiency in math and reading are even worse than the previous year’s, continuing a staggering decline that shows no signs of reversing.

As reported by Axios, the results were shown in the national survey known as “The Nation’s Report Card,” issued every year by the Education Department’s National Center for Education Statistics. This year’s sample size consisted of approximately 8,700 students in 460 schools across the country.

The decline in both math and reading has been ongoing since 2012, and was accelerated by the Chinese Coronavirus pandemic. However, the latest scores are even lower than those recorded during the pandemic. In the 2022-2023 academic year, the average math score for a 13-year-old student declined 9 points from the previous total in the 2019-2020 academic year. Reading scores declined by 4 points in the same period.

The abysmal math scores are the lowest on-record since the 1970’s, when the Nation’s Report Card first began. The decline was visible among every ethnic group, as well as both genders, and urban, rural, and suburban areas alike.

Since 2012, enrollment in algebra among 13-year-olds has declined by a stunning 10 percent, from 34 percent to 24 percent. Additionally, fewer students now say that they read for fun, an activity that is directly associated with stronger academic performance.

In addition to math and reading, history scores have also seen a sharp decline, with middle schoolers’ U.S. history scores at the lowest levels since 1994, when assessments first began on that particular topic.

“Students’ basic skills were disrupted in a way that we would not have thought before,” as a result of the pandemic, said Peggy Carr, associate commissioner for assessment for the National Center for Education Statistics. “These data are clear on that point.”

When the coronavirus pandemic began, many Democratic governors, mayors, and other authorities began ordering the shutdown of all schools for the remainder of the 2020 academic year. At the start of the 2020-2021 academic year, many schools began implementing “remote learning” or “virtual learning,” where students would stay at home but attend class through a computer, a model which was widely criticized as highly inefficient and contributing to lower scores. Some schools subsequently attempted to use a “hybrid model” combining remote learning with a return to in-person learning, with little effect on academic performances.

Even after the coronavirus pandemic has been declared officially over, concerns still linger about the lasting effects of the roughly two-and-a-half-year disruption on education in the country, which may have set most American students back much farther than previously believed.

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About Eric Lendrum

Eric Lendrum graduated from the University of California, Santa Barbara, where he was the Secretary of the College Republicans and the founding chairman of the school’s Young Americans for Freedom chapter. He has interned for Young America’s Foundation, the Heritage Foundation, and the White House, and has worked for numerous campaigns including the 2018 re-election of Congressman Devin Nunes (CA-22). He is currently a co-host of The Right Take podcast.