A Philomath classroom sits empty during the pandemic. (File photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

Oregon’s fourth- and eighth-graders are falling behind in math and reading, according to the latest results of the National Assessment for Educational Progress. 

Often referred to as the nation’s report card, the latest assessment released Monday, which tested fourth- and eighth-graders, confirmed what the Oregon Department of Education’s own assessments showed in September: that students lost ground in core subjects during the pandemic. The last time the national report came out was in 2019. 

Since then, Oregon’s fourth-grade math and reading scores have slipped to be among the lowest in the nation. Only in five states did fourth-graders perform worse in reading, and in six, they performed worse in math.

Scores in both subjects and across both grades declined in most states. The decline in nationwide eighth-grade math proficiency was the biggest drop in the report card’s 53-year history. 

Nationwide, fourth-graders across most racial and ethnic groups and in nearly every state had lower reading scores. Average reading scores among eighth-graders nationwide declined only for white students.

“The results show the profound toll on student learning during the pandemic,” said a statement from Peggy Carr, commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics, which administers the tests.

Across all states, more than 224,000 fourth-graders from nearly 5,800 schools and more than 222,000 eighth-graders from nearly 5,200 schools participated in assessments between January and March of 2022.

‘Call to action’

In Oregon, fewer than one-quarter of eighth-graders are proficient in math, according to the report card. Typically, at least one-third of Oregon’s eighth graders are proficient in math, which means they can apply math skills and knowledge to real world contexts and to problem-solving.

Oregon fourth- and eighth-graders in all types of schools – rural, urban and suburban – scored about 10% lower in reading and math on the latest national assessment than in 2019.

“The NAEP results are a continued call to action for Oregon,” Dan Farley, research and accountability administrator at the state’s education department, wrote in a statement. 

Farley said a number of recent investments passed by the Oregon Legislature to hire more teachers and counselors and offer more summer learning programs, paired with federal COVID-relief dollars directed at getting students caught up, will help the state improve in the future. 

“We believe the framework is in place to be able to help Oregon’s students achieve,” Farley wrote.

Among Oregon eighth-graders, about 43% tested below “basic” in math in the latest assessment, compared to about 33% in the 2019 assessment. About 37% of Oregon eighth-graders were considered below basic in reading, compared with about 27% in 2019. To be below basic in eighth-grade means a student struggles to determine the meaning of essential words, has trouble identifying basic literary elements and story structures and cannot formulate an opinion or inference from the text. 

About 44% of state fourth-graders tested below basic in reading, an increase of 8% from 2019. This means they lack the ability to determine the relevant meaning of familiar words, compare texts, identify details in a text and struggle to state an opinion supported by something they read.


Oregon Capital Chronicle

Oregon Capital Chronicle is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Oregon Capital Chronicle maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Lynne Terry for questions: info@oregoncapitalchronicle.com. Follow Oregon Capital Chronicle on Facebook and Twitter.

Alex Baumhardt, Oregon Capital Chronicle

Alex Baumhardt has been a national radio producer focusing on education for American Public Media since 2017. She has reported from the Arctic to the Antarctic for national and international media, and from Minnesota and Oregon for The Washington Post. She previously worked in Iceland and Qatar and was a Fulbright scholar in Spain where she earned a master's degree in digital media. She's been a kayaking guide in Alaska, farmed on four continents and worked the night shift at several bakeries to support her reporting along the way.