(CNSNews.com) - Public education is in crisis, with declining student test scores and teacher shortages, to name two of the major problems.
The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), also known as The Nation’s Report Card, released its findings for fourth- and eighth-graders on Monday, blaming the pandemic for the setbacks.
Nationally, the average mathematics score for fourth-graders fell five points since 2019, while the score for eighth-graders dropped eight points. The national average score declines in mathematics for fourth- and eighth-graders were the largest ever recorded in that subject.
In reading, average scores for both grades fell three points.
The percentage of students performing below the NAEP Basic level increased across both subjects and grade levels. In mathematics, 25 percent of fourth-graders were below the NAEP Basic level in 2022 (an increase from 19 percent in 2019); and 38 percent of eighth-graders were below NAEP Basic (an increase from 31 percent in 2019).
In reading, the percentage of fourth-graders below the NAEP Basic level increased from 34 percent in 2019 to 37 percent in 2022, and the percentage of eighth-graders below NAEP Basic increased from 27 percent in 2019 to 30 percent in 2022.
Education Secretary Miguel Cardona told CNN on Monday, the report should be "a wakeup call" to improve the education system. His solution is more money:
"We really need to make sure we're utilizing the ARP (American Rescue Plan) dollars to help our students in reading and math and go beyond the data that we had in 2019. We have to double down now," Cardona said.
Cardona blamed "decades of under-investment" for declining test scores:
"If we're going to get our students to where they should be in America, leading the world, we really need to take this issue seriously. Past the pandemic, we need to think about how we're investing in our schools, how we're investing in our education system, prioritizing education with the same level of urgency that our president is doing.
"You know, we're proposing 21 percent increase in our budget for education. We need to make sure we have highly qualified teachers in every classroom, we have programs for students after school, in the summer. We know what to do, we just have to have the urgency across the country to get it done."
Host Brianna Keilar asked Cardona, "How long does that take? Obviously that's not a short term solution. Are we talking about a generation of remediation here?"
"No," Cardona said.
"I think what we can do right now is make sure that we're utilizing the funds that we currently have. We have more money in education now than at any other point, as an educator, for me. We need to make sure we’re utilizing the funds for academic recovery and we need to communicate with our families how we're using the dollars. So short term that's what we need to do.
"But I'm calling on all leaders throughout the country to look at this as a call to action, to invest in education so that we don’t go backwards. I'm confident that if we focus on our reading and math and on science, that we can lift our students' performance, and we can make our education system the best in the world.”
Cardona also mentioned higher pay for teachers to deal with shortages. He complained about "a lack of respect for the profession."
"That's one part of it," he said. "But we also have to make sure we're utilizing our dollars for intervention programs and acceleration programs for our students after school, in summer school and we have some examples of that across the country.
“We do have some bright spots. Our job at the Department of Education is make sure we're providing guidance to all states, lifting up best practices and giving parents a checklist on what questions to ask their schools to make sure that their children are getting the support they deserve."
According to The Nation's Report Card:
In 2022, the average reading score at both fourth and eighth grade decreased by 3 points compared to 2019. At fourth grade, the average reading score was lower than all previous assessment years going back to 2005 and was not significantly different in comparison to 1992. At eighth grade, the average reading score was lower compared to all previous assessment years going back to 1998 and was not significantly different compared to 1992.
The score declines in NAEP mathematics at grades 4 and 8 were the largest since initial assessments in 1990: In 2022, the average fourth-grade mathematics score decreased by 5 points and was lower than all previous assessment years going back to 2005; the average score was one point higher compared to 2003. The average eighth-grade mathematics score decreased by 8 points compared to 2019 and was lower than all previous assessment years going back to 2003.