School pandemic shutdowns to blame for historic drop in mathematics and reading proficiency scores among American children


 By Belle Carte



Student test scores in mathematics and reading proficiency in U.S. elementary schools have dropped significantly compared to pre-pandemic levels.

The most recent National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), which was released on September 1, found that reading scores in 2022 dropped by five points – the biggest decline since 1990. For students at the 10th percentile, meaning those who performed worse than 90 percent of the class, the drop was 10 points.

Math scores fell seven points for the first time in the 50-year history of the study, with the 10th percentile dropping 12 points. The dramatic plunge in scores has been blamed mainly on school shutdowns during the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

The “Nation’s Report Card” was the first national assessment conducted based on tests taken by nine-year-old children in early 2022 and at the start of 2020. Broader data is expected to be released later this year as part of NAEP.

COVID-19 disruptions may have exacerbated many of the challenges we were already facing. We know that students who struggle the most have fallen further behind their peers. The 2020 long-term trend assessment showed that scores in mathematics and reading for 9-year-olds were flat overall since the prior assessment in 2012, but lower-performing students had significant declines,” National Center for Education Statistics Commissioner Peggy G. Carr said on the agency’s website.

The table provided on the site showed that nine-year-old children in both the 10th and 25th percentiles lost ground in mathematics.



Moreover, Carr said the data revealed that the pandemic’s toll on education included increases in students seeking mental health services, absenteeism, school violence and disruption, cyberbullying and nationwide teacher and staff shortages.

“Actual science didn’t support school closures,” Pennsylvania Representative Guy Reschenthaler said. “Democrats were too busy following political science to care. As a result, we lost decades of gains in reading and math scores.”

In New York City, schools were not fully reopened until 18 months after their first COVID-19 lockdown. In Los Angeles, meanwhile, parents filed lawsuits against teachers’ unions and schools for “holding children hostage” to their political agenda.

Lockdowns affect children’s mental health

Children were struggling to perform well in school via online learning, observers say. Separated from peers during their crucial developmental phases, they were clearly negatively impacted by the pandemic lockdowns.

Some were already wrestling with emotional issues even prior to the pandemic and were aggravated by the feeling of loneliness and isolation when the protocol was imposed. (Related: 60,000 British children suffer from depression due to COVID-19 lockdowns, study finds.)

In March, a study entitled “Effects of COVID-19 pandemic on the mental health of children and adolescents: A systematic review of survey studies” compiled 35 survey studies with 65,508 participants, ranging from four to 19?years of age.

The collaborative research found that anxiety (28 percent), depression (23 percent), loneliness, stress, fear (all five percent) and tension, anger, fatigue, confusion and worry (all three percent) were the most common mental health issues reported.