NYC Elementary and Middle School Math Proficiency Plummeted amid Covid-19 School Closures

Math proficiency among New York City’s elementary and middle schoolers plummeted during the pandemic, when schools were closed for nearly two years and teachers were forced to rely on remote learning.

The learning loss in K-12 public schools was dramatic nationwide and especially so in the NYC school system, according to new test score data released Wednesday. Third through eighth graders have lost eight points in math proficiency since 2019, when Covid-19 emerged. When the test was last administered in 2019, 46 percent of those students passed the math exam. Only 38 percent of third through eight graders passed in 2022.

Eighth graders fared the worst in math, clocking in at 25 percent proficiency in a whopping eleven point drop from 2019, suggesting that middle schoolers likely struggled to master more advanced concepts via Zoom.

New York City students avoided similar setbacks in reading. Fewer than half of students in grades three through eight, 49 percent, demonstrated proficiency in reading in 2022. This represents a small improvement of one-and-a-half percentage points from 2019 when 47.4 percent passed.

The racial gap on the math and reading assessment remained consistent this year compared to 2019, holding at a roughly 38 percentage point gap between black and white kids in math and about 31 percent in reading. Asian students in grades three through eight, historically a very high-performing racial demographic in the city, lost six points of progress in math, though they gained almost three points in reading. Hispanic kids slumped about ten points and black kids slumped almost eight points in math competency, slightly less than the eight percent slide for white kids.

The city could not track academic performance in math and reading in 2020 because exams were not given then. They were were optional for students in 2021.

New York City’s testing decline comes after the release of national test results, which showed a score drop among nine-year-olds for the first time since it was first administered in 1973. Literacy skills suffered in a major way, with these children’s reading scores declining by the largest margin since 1990. Average scores for nine-year-old students in 2022 dropped five points in reading and seven points in mathematics compared to 2020.

Low-performing and minority students bore the brunt, according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, with students in the bottom tenth percentile losing 12 points in math compared to only three points for students in the 90th percentile of scores.

Many attribute the overall massive crash in American academic excellence to the disruption of virtual learning and school shutdowns, aggressively promoted by teachers’ unions and Democratic lawmakers.

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