NJ post-COVID test scores are out and the results are alarming
TRENTON – The "Nation’s Report Card" came out Monday – and it shows the depth of the damage inflicted by the pandemic on learning, in New Jersey and across the country.
New Jersey recorded its lowest math scores since 2003 and its lowest fourth-grade reading scores since 2005 on this year’s National Assessment of Educational Progress. Eighth-grade reading scores were the lone bright spot for the state – the same average as in 2019, ranking first nationally.
'Not going away on its own'
“Should parents be worried? Yes, they should be worried. And I hope they get that message,” said Peggy Carr, commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics. “But I hope they get the message that they need to turn that worry into action because this isn’t going to go away on its own. It’s not going to – we can just look away and then eventually it’d get better. It’s not.
“We have a whole generation of students whose academic careers were knocked off track, off course,” Carr said. “Parents need to know this is a serious issue here. It’s not to be taken lightly. And they need to work with their schools and their teachers to help their students.”
Math scores suffered most, with students who were already struggling falling behind more than higher achievers. Carr said the national 5-point decline in Grade 4 math and 8-point decline in Grade 8 are the largest declines ever recorded on the NAEP.
Carr said students need more time on task.
“Double-dose tutoring, high-dose tutoring, whatever it is that you call it. Extended day, more time during the day, summer,” Carr said. “All of the above needs to take place.”
How New Jersey has performed on test scores
New Jersey registered its lowest average math score since 2003 – including drops of 7 points for fourth graders and 11 points for eighth graders. The only states with a bigger drop in Grade 8 than New Jersey were Delaware, Oklahoma and West Virginia.
Reading scores dropped by less and did so more uniformly by achievement level. But they also hadn’t increased as much over the years as math scores did, so the drop was notable.
“The average score is exactly what it was in 1992 when we collected these. I was surprised by that,” Carr said. “I had them double-check it. It is correct.”
New Jersey’s reading score among fourth-graders was the lowest since 2005. But the eighth-grade score was unchanged compared to 2019, with the share of kids performing at or above proficiency the highest among any state in the country.
However, New Jersey’s average reading score was already 5 to 6 points down from its peak.
“Just because we are stepping into an opportunity where we may have to take bigger, faster, wider steps, this is not a moment for paralyzing discouragement,” said Tonya Matthews, a member of the National Assessment Governing Board. “This is a moment of extraordinary motivation.”