Desks are arranged in a classroom at Panther Valley Elementary School, Thursday, March 11, 2021, in Nesquehoning, Pa. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum) Virus Outbreak Child Abuse
Desks are arranged in a classroom at Panther Valley Elementary School, Thursday, March 11, 2021, in Nesquehoning, Pa. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Slipping math and reading scores among Pennsylvania’s fourth and eighth grade students are consistent with a national trend.

A new report finds that math and reading scores among fourth and eighth grade students have fallen in nearly every state and across almost all demographic groups since 2019, underscoring the impact of the pandemic on education. 

Pennsylvania experienced such a downturn, but the commonwealth is still one of ten states where fourth and eighth graders are either meeting the national average for proficiency in math and reading or exceeding it, according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress report, which is considered to be the “nation’s report card.”

The exam used to gather the report’s findings is administered by federal officials and is generally considered more rigorous than many state tests. It was given to approximately 450,000 fourth and eighth graders in more than 10,000 schools between January and March

Overall in the United States, 26% of eighth graders met the proficiency standards in math, which is down from 34% since the last time the test was administered in 2019. Fourth graders only did slightly better: 36% of them were proficient in math, down from 41%. This represents a decline in 41 states. 

Reading scores were not much better, with 33% percent of fourth graders and 31% of eighth graders meeting proficiency standards respectively. Reading scores declined in more than half of states, continuing a downward trend that started even before the pandemic began, as the New York Times points out.

Pennsylvania ranks higher than the national average proficiency score for fourth grade math, at 40%, down from 47% in 2019. For eighth graders, only 27% met the proficiency score, down from 39% in 2019. 

Thirty-four percent of Pennsylvania’s fourth grade reading scores met the proficiency minimum, down from 40% in 2019, and 31% of eighth grade reading scores met the proficiency minimum, down from 35% in 2019. 

The findings also serve to highlight the pandemic’s disproportionate impact on students of color, with white and Asian fourth and eighth graders testing significantly higher than Black or Hispanic students in math and reading. 

Fourth and eighth grade students at city schools tested significantly lower in both reading and math than their suburban and rural counterparts, as well.

To read the full report, click here