Academic proficiency plummeted in 2022 to among the lowest on record following the coronavirus school shutdowns, and children in Democrat-run states where teachers union demands led to extended school shutdowns bore the brunt, data released Monday from a national test known as the “nation’s report card” showed.
The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) is administered to fourth and eighth graders every few years, allowing for a comparison of reading and math proficiency by state between 2019 — just before the pandemic — and 2022. The decline in math scores was the sharpest ever since the test began in 1990, and the average math scores were the lowest since 2005. The average eighth grade reading score was the lowest since 1998.
“Today’s NAEP results are the proverbial final nail in the coffin,” Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin, a Republican who won election in 2021 in a blue-leaning state largely because of fury over Democrats’ education policies, said Monday. “If this doesn’t wake you up, then you’re clearly trying to cover up your own bad decisions. In the business world, if this was your report card, there would be an immediate change in management. You would be fired. And I think that’s what voters did.”
He said leaders kept “schools shut for an unnecessary amount of time, forcing students to learn through a screen and telling them that’s a meaningful education,” and that coronavirus decisions followed decades of similarly bad education decisions.
The map at the top of this article shows how badly the number of fourth-graders who scored at least “basic” in reading fell compared to before the pandemic in each state. Basic is the lowest of the three tiers — basic, proficient, and advanced — and those who do not have even basic reading skills by fourth grade are at risk of serious problems when it comes to employment and higher education later in life.
While almost all schools closed in March 2020, schools in conservative areas were often open for the following 2020-21 school year, while those in areas where teachers unions’ Democrat allies hold power were closed or in some sort of hybrid schedule for much of the year.
In the following chart, The Daily Wire plotted the same drop in reading scores according to how much of the 2020-21 school year the average student spent in actual, in-person school — as opposed to so-called distance learning that often consisted of little actual work, and with significant truancy from students. The state names are colored according to whether it had a Republican or Democrat governor at the beginning of the 2020-21 school year.
Clustered in the lower-left are Virginia, Oregon, Minnesota, Maryland, D.C., Nevada, and New York. That’s because all of them had among the longest school shutdowns — and drops approaching 9%. Only four states saw improvements in this measure of reading: Florida, whose schools remained open, Louisiana and Alabama, whose schools were also mostly open, and Hawaii — an outlier which saw improvement despite closed schools.
For the percent of time in-person, The Daily Wire drew from COVID School Data Hub, which tracked schools’ status across the country — though the average figure isn’t perfect since some decisions about remote learning varied across school districts and grade levels. Four states are also missing.
Here we have the same thing but for Grade 8 math. This time, we look at the drop in the percent who scored “proficient.” The even larger drops in this tier highlights that school shutdowns did not only harm students who were barely hanging on even before the pandemic, but were also devastating to previously good students.
Deep-blue states including Minnesota, Massachusetts, and Washington had drops of 12% — far more than states that spent more of the year in-person. Every state saw declines, but deep-red Alabama saw the smallest decline.
Though the scores are mostly at the state level, results are also provided for certain large cities. In Miami-Dade, Florida, 71% of 8th graders scored at least “basic” in reading, and in 2022, that actually rose to 72%. Meanwhile, in Chicago, the 2019 figure of 64% dropped to 61%. While Gov. Ron DeSantis ordered Florida’s schools open, the Chicago teachers union refused to work, claiming “The push to reopen schools is rooted in sexism, racism and misogyny.”