Naep Blog 10 24


NAEP Scores Demand Continued Strategic Investments & Innovations in Student Learning

Every two years, the National Assessment of Education Progress, or NAEP, offers us an opportunity to see how Texas students are learning compared to both prior assessments and to the rest of the country. Results released today from this year’s January 2022 administration (delayed from January 2021 due to the pandemic) show that the nation continues to grapple with significant learning disruption from the pandemic compared to the last time students took the NAEP in 2019. These scores mark our first baseline for post-pandemic results.

The overall headline is clear but not surprising: COVID-19 created a profound negative impact on student learning that was both broad and deep. No demographic or state was immune, with proficiency rates returning to levels last seen over two decades ago (ranging from 26% to 35% across Math and Reading). Overall reading scores nationally dropped to 1992 levels and math scores showed the largest decline ever recorded. In both subjects, scores fell even further for the nation’s Black and Hispanic students, as well as its students experiencing economic insecurity.

Texas students saw a statistically insignificant decline in Reading compared to 2019. In Math, Texas students lost more ground, though less severely relative to several of our peer states, boosting Texas’ relative performance in many areas.

Overall, Texas ranked 33rd in 4th Grade Reading (up from 42nd in 2019), 41st in 8th Grade Reading (up from 46th in 2019), 14th in 4th Grade Math (down from 12th in 2019), and 25th in 8th grade Math (up from 32nd in 2019).

NAEP plays an important role in identifying where and with which student groups to focus; our relative low rank in early reading was a key driver of numerous House Bill 3 (86R) reforms surrounding teacher literacy training and expanded investment in quality PreK and English learners.

Current disaggregated data shows that Texas has made steady progress in Math across many of our student groups: we now lead the nation in both 4th and 8th Grade Math proficiency for Black students and are in the top quintile of states in relative Math performance for both Hispanic students and students experiencing economic disadvantage.

Despite these relative gains, however, innovation must continue given overall proficiency levels. It remains critical for districts to invest in expanding the school year and ensuring that its most effective educators are retained through additional pay and staffed where they are most needed. National experts speaking at a half-day release convening on Monday also cited NAEP’s results as a clarion call to continue and scale Reading Academies and meaningful tutoring opportunities as additional strategies to improve student outcomes.

Thankfully, Texas is uniquely positioned to leverage these strategies for our 5.4 million students through funding made possible by HB 3, and the sheer size of our state requires school leaders to double down on these efforts. Ten percent of the country’s students attend Texas public schools, so we must take full advantage of the initiatives and funding made available by the Legislature, and we must continue annual benchmarking to identify what is working so that it can be studied and replicated.

While NAEP offers insights, it does not tell the whole story. Texas’ summative assessment system provides educators, school leaders, and policymakers a much more nuanced perspective, as it encompasses a greater number of tested grades, measures relative performance across all school districts, and is specifically aligned to the state’s education standards. The state’s annual standardized assessment occurred roughly three months after the most recent NAEP administration, and the improvement in reading compared to NAEP (9% more 4th graders performed on grade level on STAAR in 2022 compared to 2019, while NAEP proficiency declined 2%) is likely due to the dedication of teachers over the course of the Spring 2022 semester. Meaningful learning happened in classrooms across the state, and STAAR reflects that.

Still, our statewide assessments also demonstrate the pressing need for continued attention, as hundreds of thousands of students are not meeting grade-level expectations. Said Commit Partnership CEO Todd Williams, “We should not shy away from, or make excuses for, the declines reflected in NAEP scores. These data points are a call to action: students deserve the best support our education systems can offer, and the broad expansion of research-driven best practices are our best shot at getting young Texans back on track.”

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