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.

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“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.”

Michael Symons is the Statehouse bureau chief for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at michael.symons@townsquaremedia.com

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10 years later — Sandy makes landfall in New Jersey

These are the best hiking spots in New Jersey

A trip to New Jersey doesn't have to be all about the beach. Our state has some incredible trails, waterfalls, and lakes to enjoy.

From the Pine Barrens to the Appalachian Trail to the hidden gems of New Jersey, you have plenty of options for a great hike. Hiking is such a great way to spend time outdoors and enjoy nature, plus it's a great workout.

Before you go out on the trails and explore some of our listeners' suggestions, I have some tips on hiking etiquette from the American Hiking Society.

If you are going downhill and run into an uphill hiker, step to the side and give the uphill hiker space. A hiker going uphill has the right of way unless they stop to catch their breath.

Always stay on the trail, you may see side paths, unless they are marked as an official trail, steer clear of them. By going off-trail you may cause damage to the ecosystems around the trail, the plants, and wildlife that live there.

You also do not want to disturb the wildlife you encounter, just keep your distance from the wildlife and continue hiking.

Bicyclists should yield to hikers and horses. Hikers should also yield to horses, but I’m not sure how many horses you will encounter on the trails in New Jersey.
If you are thinking of bringing your dog on your hike, they should be leashed, and make sure to clean up all pet waste.

Lastly, be mindful of the weather, if the trail is too muddy, it's probably best to save your hike for another day.

I asked our listeners for their suggestions of the best hiking spots in New Jersey, check out their suggestions:

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