Inequality is still at the heart of student NAEP score performance

The Nation’s Report Card, with its bad news about National Assessment of Education Progress, or NAEP, math and reading scores, drove home a message long hinted at: The pandemic created disastrous academic deficits for U.S. students, especially for young people of color.

Math and reading scores dominate our understanding of student success; the current levels of learning loss — and the worrisome downward trend despite the return to “normal” — are unacceptable. For the sake of all students, particularly Black, Hispanic and Native American students, we clearly must make a priority of addressing these core concerns.

The latest data show that math and reading proficiency are down for fourth and eighth graders in virtually every state and every demographic. For both grades tested, in 2019 and 2022, Black, Hispanic and Native American students received the lowest scores, reflecting the high concentration of students of color in underresourced, underperforming schools. Because of the emphasis on math and reading scores, these groups of students are deemed universally less well prepared, and the gaps between their scores and white students’ scores have widened.

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