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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

A 'lost generation' of learning: Scores fall, gaps widen for 13-year-olds


America's 13-year-olds are moving backwards educationally, according to a new report on long term trends by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), writes Kevin Mahnken on The 74.

"The average 13-year-old’s understanding of math plummeting back to levels last seen in the 1990s; struggling readers scored lower than they did in 1971, when the test was first administered," he writes. The academic slump started in 2012 and got worse in the pandemic. Low achievers lost the most, especially in math. "Since 2012, students scoring at the 25th and 10th percentiles have tumbled by a truly stunning margin: 19 and 27 points, respectively," writes Mahnken. Racial and ethnic gaps also widened: Blacks and Hispanics, already behind, lost more than whites. (Asian Americans are way ahead of everyone else.) A survey on literacy had more bad news: 31 percent of the 13-year-olds “never or hardly ever” read for fun, up from 22 percent in 2012. Only 14 percent read on their own time “almost every day,” down from 27 percent in 2012.


Fewer students are taking pre-algebra or algebra, in part due to "equity" policies to delay access to advanced math.

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Guest
Jun 22, 2023

The chart doesn't have the resolution but they needed the 2015 ESSA law passed before they could start the decline in earnest as Dr. Jame Lindsay spells out. The decline was perhaps not on purpose, but the shift of the curriculum to social justice was.

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Guest
Jun 22, 2023

Nah, they've just had other ways of learning that doesn't show up on NAEP.


Ann in L.A.

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Guest
Jun 22, 2023

Please, "plummeted" is not at all the right word for the wiggle in this trend. Neither is "tumbled". If the chart had not omitted the part of the vertical axis between zero and 240 or so, the bumps and dips would hardly be noticeable.


What's up with "scale scores", anyhow? How is the public to ensure the "scale" doesn't vary enough from year to year to affect "scores" more than actual performance? Why can't we set some sort of comparison and match performance to expectation in percentage?

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Guest
Jun 23, 2023
Replying to

I would agree with you, since this sort of fooling with the chart axes stuff is all too commonplace. However, if scores dip to the levels last seen 30 years ago, I think we can call it a "plummet" no matter how the chart is presented.

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