2023 NAEP Test Scores Illustrate the Importance of High-Dosage Tutoring

Written by Catapult Learning,  [email protected]

Two decades’ worth of progress…gone. Just like that. Everyone was aware of the learning loss and intellectual damage done by the COVID-19 pandemic, but the recently released National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) Long-Term Trend Assessment scores offer grim, sobering insight on just how devastating the pandemic continues to be on education—math and reading scores for 13-year-olds across the United States dropped dramatically between 2020 and 2023, and even more so compared to a decade ago. This comes on the heels of NAEP LTT Assessments revealing that math and reading scores for 9-year-olds across the United States also dropped sharply between 2020 and 2022, resulting in performance in these subjects dipping to the levels of 20 years ago.

NAEP Test Background and Insights

For those unfamiliar, the NAEP LTT test is a gold standard colloquially known as “the nation’s report card” and is effective at comparing student achievement from decade to decade. This most recent test sample comprised approximately 8,700 13-year-olds in each subject; for the 2022 test, 15,000 9-year-olds from more than 400 schools across the country were tested.

According to NAEP, average scores for age 9 students in 2022 declined five (5) points in reading and seven (7) points in mathematics compared to 2020. If this doesn’t seem like much, consider that it is the largest average score decline in reading since 1990, and the first ever score decline in mathematics. Every year, since 1973, math scores either increased or remained steady—until 2022. In 2023, the scores continued to fall: The average scores for 13-year-olds declined four (4) points in reading and nine (9) points in mathematics compared to the previous assessment of 13-year-olds administered during the 2019–20 school year. Compared to a decade ago, the average scores declined seven (7) points in reading and 14 points in mathematics.

Other Insights

  • In 2022, reading and mathematics scores for students at five selected percentile levels declined compared to 2020. In both subjects, scores for lower-performing age 9 students declined more than scores for higher-performing students compared to 2020.
  • The 2023 reading scores for age 13 students at all five selected percentile levels also declined compared to 2020. The declines ranged from three (3) to four (4) points for middle- and higher-performing students to six (6) to seven (7) points for lower-performing students.
  • The 2023 mathematics scores for age 13 students at all five selected percentile levels also declined compared to 2020. These declines ranged from six (6) to eight (8) points for middle- and higher-performing students to a staggering 12 to 14 points for lower-performing students.
  • The score difference between students attending suburban schools and students attending city schools narrowed in reading between 2020 and 2022. This resulted in a narrowing of the score gap between students attending schools from these two locations (from 12 points in 2020 to 4 points in 2022). In mathematics, however, the gap widened from 25 points in 2020 to 33 points in 2022.
  • In 2023, Black students experienced a 13-point math score decrease compared to the 6-point decrease among white students, resulting in a widening of this racial score gap from 35 points in 2020 to 42 points in 2023.
  • Based the 2022 test scores, 9-year-olds are performing at the same level in math as 9-year-olds did in 1999 and at the same reading level as in 2004.
  • As part of the 2023 LTT Assessment, students were asked how many days of school they had missed in the last month. Responses demonstrate a decrease in the number of 13-year-old students reporting having missed 0 to 2 days in the past month compared to 2020. Even worse, there were reported increases in the percentages of 13-year-old students who reported missing 3 or 4 days and students who reported missing 5 or more days in the last month. The percentage of students who reported missing 5 or more days doubled from 5 percent in 2020 to 10 percent in 2023.
  • For both reading and mathematics, students with fewer missed school days generally had higher average scores in 2023 than students with more missed school days.