Chris Schulz Published

Latest National Assessment Reinforces Academic Decline Post-COVID-19

Students at desks taking a standardized testVectorfusionart/Adobe Stock

The latest national assessment of academic ability shows a continued decline in student achievement nationwide. 

Eighth graders on average scored five points lower on a U.S. History assessment in 2022 than in 2018, and almost 10 points lower than in 2014, according to test results published by the U.S. Department of Education Wednesday.

Known as the nation’s report card, the National Assessment of Educational Proficiency continually assesses what students in the country know.  

The results echo declines in reading and math published in the fall. 

Peggy Carr, commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics, presented the assessment results. She said history and civics results further highlight educational issues post-COVID-19.

“The assessment isn’t just about the facts, it’s not just about dates and times and people and all those great things that you and I both know that’s on the assessment,” she said. “It’s about taking that information and conducting some critical thinking and some of the evaluative work relevant to that information. And I think this is where we’re seeing some real problems in these results.”

Unlike the reading and math scores reported last fall, which relied on a sample size of more than 200,000 students, the U.S. history and civics scores are based on a much smaller sample size, about 16,000 students, which does not allow for detailed, state by state analysis.

Carr pointed towards the decline between 2014 and 2018 history assessments to indicate that something beyond COVID-19 is impacting student achievement in the subject.

“I think we can all agree that COVID had an impact in both sets of assessments, reading and math, history and civics, but what was going on in U.S. History in particular, started long before COVID,” she said.

Carr also dismissed reports that instructional time for U.S. history and civics had declined significantly, with 90 percent of students assessed reporting their teachers spent three to four hours a week on U.S. history.

“These subjects are not getting squeezed out I think in the way that people sometimes might imagine,” Carr said. “There’s been a bit of a decline, but nonetheless, a lot of instruction is going on in these areas.”