## Student Learning in Mathematics and Science

The COVID-19 pandemic led to severe disruptions in K–12 student learning beginning with the abrupt switch to remote instruction for the majority of schools and students in March 2020. Specifically, in spring 2020, 77% of public schools reported that they transitioned to online remote instruction, and 83% of public school teachers reported that all or some of their classes were moved to online distance-learning formats (Berger et al. 2022). Schools began a slow transition back to in-person instruction during the 2020–21 school year, although only about half of fourth- and eighth-grade public school students attended full-time, in-person classes by the end of May 2021. That percentage had increased to nearly 100% by spring 2022 (National Center for Education Statistics [NCES] 2022).^{These data are from the School Pulse Panel (https://ies.ed.gov/schoolsurvey/spp/), a study sponsored by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) to collect data on issues concerning the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on students and staff in U.S. public primary, middle, high, and combined-grade schools. The Census Bureau conducts the School Pulse Panel on behalf of NCES.}

Assessment data released in 2022 by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) show sharp declines in student mathematics performance compared with pre-pandemic scores.^{This report focuses on mathematics data because new NAEP science data were not available at the time of publication. NAEP science data were last collected in 2019 and reported on in an NSF InfoByte released in May 2022 (Rotermund and Burke 2022). The next NAEP science data collection is scheduled for winter 2024 and will be administered to students in grade 8.} These data also show a disproportionate negative impact of COVID-19 on assessment scores for students living in poverty and for students from historically marginalized racial and ethnic groups who are underrepresented in the STEM workforce. The use of assessment data to understand the impact of disrupted learning is critical as policymakers, school systems, state leaders, educators, and parents seek ways to support students who were affected by school-related closures and learning disruptions during the pandemic. This section of the report will focus on indicators related to the impact of COVID-19 on elementary and secondary students and an analysis of student performance in an international context in 2019 prior to the pandemic.

### National Trends in K–12 Student Achievement

#### Overall Scores Declined in 2022 following Disrupted Learning in 2020

Assessment data indicate that the COVID-19 pandemic set national educational progress in mathematics back approximately 20 years in terms of point drops in NAEP assessment scores. The NAEP data collected in 2022 show sharp declines in fourth- and eighth-grade student mathematics performance compared with pre-pandemic scores.^{NAEP administered two mathematics assessments in 2022: the main NAEP and the NAEP long-term trend (LTT) assessment. Between January and March 2022, the main NAEP mathematics assessment was administered to representative samples of fourth- and eighth-grade students in the nation. Originally scheduled to be administered in spring 2021, the administration was delayed to 2022. The main NAEP is typically administered every 2 years, and mathematics results are available dating back to the first administration in 1990. The NAEP LTT assessment is designed to track long-term trends in student performance; it is administered every 4 years (rather than every 2 years) and is administered to students by age rather than grade level. The LTT has remained relatively unchanged since first administered in 1978, whereas the main NAEP assessment changes every decade or so to reflect curricular and framework changes. Last administered in 2020, the next LTT assessment was scheduled for 2024, but the National Center for Education Statistics added an assessment in 2022 to measure the impact of COVID-19 on student performance. Results from both NAEP assessments are reported as average scores on a 0–500 scale. Discussion of 12th-grade scores has not been included because no new data are available for 2022. Data through 2019 for 12th-grade students are available in Table SK12-2.} The NAEP long-term trend (LTT) assessment in mathematics shows a 7-point drop among 9-year-old students from 2020 to 2022 (Figure K12-1). The main NAEP assessment in mathematics shows a 5-point drop among fourth graders and an 8-point drop among eighth graders from 2019 to 2022 (Figure K12-2). These average mathematics scores in 2022 are lower than scores going back to 2004 for 9-year-olds, 2005 for fourth graders, and 2003 for eighth graders.

#### Average scores of 9-year-old students on the NAEP long-term trend mathematics assessment: 1978–2022

Year | All 9-year-old students |
---|---|

1978 | 219 |

1982 | 219 |

1986 | 222 |

1990 | 230 |

1992 | 230 |

1994 | 231 |

1996 | 231 |

1999 | 232 |

2004 | 239 |

2008 | 243 |

2012 | 244 |

2020 | 241 |

2022 | 234 |

NAEP = National Assessment of Educational Progress.

###### Note(s):

The scale for NAEP mathematics assessment scores is 0–500 for 9-year-old students.

###### Source(s):

National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, special tabulations (2022) of the 1978, 1982, 1986, 1990, 1992, 1994, 1996, 1999, 2004, 2008, 2012, 2020, and 2022 NAEP long-term trend mathematics assessments, National Center for Education Statistics.

*Science and Engineering Indicators*

#### Average scores of students in grades 4 and 8 on the main NAEP mathematics assessment: 1990–2022

Year | Students in grade 4 | Students in grade 8 |
---|---|---|

1990 | 213 | 263 |

1992 | 220 | 268 |

1996 | 224 | 270 |

2000 | 226 | 273 |

2003 | 235 | 278 |

2005 | 238 | 279 |

2007 | 240 | 281 |

2009 | 240 | 283 |

2011 | 241 | 284 |

2013 | 242 | 285 |

2015 | 240 | 282 |

2017 | 240 | 283 |

2019 | 241 | 282 |

2022 | 236 | 274 |

NAEP = National Assessment of Educational Progress.

###### Note(s):

The scale for NAEP mathematics assessment scores is 0–500 for grades 4 and 8.

###### Source(s):

National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, special tabulations (2022) of the 1990, 1992, 1996, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2013, 2015, 2017, 2019, and 2022 main NAEP mathematics assessments, National Center for Education Statistics.

*Science and Engineering Indicators*

#### Score Differences, by Student Groups in Fourth and Eighth Grades in 2022

In addition to illustrating the differences in scores from 2019 to 2022, an examination of 2022 main NAEP scores reveals differences within student groups. Male students scored higher than female students in the fourth and eighth grades, with differences of 6 points in 2022 and 3 points in 2019, respectively (Figure K12-3). Students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch at both grade levels scored approximately 25 points lower than students not eligible for free or reduced-price lunch.^{The National School Lunch Program is a federally assisted meal program operated in public and private nonprofit schools and residential childcare centers. To be eligible for free lunch, a student must be from a household with an income at or below 130% of the federal poverty guideline; to be eligible for reduced-price lunch, a student must be from a household with an income between 130% and 185% of the federal poverty guideline. Student eligibility for this program is a commonly used indicator of family socioeconomic status.} Score differences by race or ethnicity ranged from 42 points in fourth grade to 53 points in eighth grade, with Asian students at the high end and Black students at the low end of the distribution (Figure K12-4). An analysis of score differences by race or ethnicity within school lunch categories shows that these score differences exist regardless of lunch eligibility status (Table K12-1).

#### Average scores of students in grades 4 and 8 on the main NAEP mathematics assessment, by sex, disability status, and socioeconomic status: 2019 and 2022

* = significantly different (*p* < 0.10) from 2019 score.

NAEP = National Assessment of Educational Progress.

###### Note(s):

The scale for NAEP mathematics assessment scores is 0–500 for grades 4 and 8.

###### Source(s):

National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, special tabulations (2022) of the 2019 and 2022 main NAEP mathematics assessments, National Center for Education Statistics.

*Science and Engineering Indicators*

#### Average scores of students in grades 4 and 8 on the main NAEP mathematics assessment, by race or ethnicity: 2019 and 2022

* = significantly different (*p* < 0.10) from 2019 score.

NAEP = National Assessment of Educational Progress.

###### Note(s):

The scale for NAEP mathematics assessment scores is 0–500 for grades 4 and 8. Black includes African American. Hispanic includes Latino. Hispanic may be any race; race categories exclude Hispanic origin.

###### Source(s):

National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, special tabulations (2022) of the 2019 and 2022 main NAEP mathematics assessments, National Center for Education Statistics.

*Science and Engineering Indicators*