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Peggy G. Carr, Ph.D.
Commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics

Commissioner’s Statement on the Upcoming Release of NAEP Long-Term Trend Assessment Results

On September 1, I will release mathematics and reading results of 9-year-olds from the 2022 NAEP long-term trend assessment—the first nationally representative report comparing student achievement from before the pandemic to now. The mathematics and reading skills of 9-year-olds, who were assessed this year, will be compared to their peers from 2 years ago, who were assessed just before the start of the pandemic. In anticipation of the results, it is important to consider what achievement looked like before the onset of the pandemic, opportunities to learn in the pandemic period, and the type of data we will get with the long-term trend release.

We have all been concerned about the short- and longer-term impacts of the pandemic on our children. There’s been much speculation about how shuttered schools and interrupted learning may have affected students’ opportunities to learn. Our own data reveal the pandemic’s toll on education in other ways, including increases in students seeking mental health services, absenteeism, school violence and disruption, cyberbullying, and nationwide teacher and staff shortages.

COVID-19 disruptions may have exacerbated many of the challenges we were already facing. We know that students who struggle the most have fallen further behind their peers. The 2020 long-term trend assessment showed that scores in both mathematics and reading for 9-year-olds were flat overall since the prior assessment in 2012, but lower-performing students had significant declines. In 2020, students who struggle the most—those in the 10th percentile—started losing the reading gains that were made over the longer term. As this table shows, 9-year-olds in both the 10th and 25th percentiles lost ground in mathematics.

Table showing 2020 percentile scores for the ages 9 and 13 long-term trend assessment in mathematics and reading, as well as changes from 2012 and 1971. Data shows that scores have decreased across ages and subjects at the 10th percentile.

We’ve seen more evidence of this troubling gap in other NCES assessments. It is important to know if and how this gap was affected between 2020 and 2022.

That’s why NCES conducted a special data assessment of 9-year-old students from January to March, to get a before-pandemic-and-now comparison. Because this information is so vital, we’re releasing the results quickly—just months after the data collection.

As we await the results, here’s an explanation of what kinds of information you will get in September.

The NAEP long-term trend assessment is, in some ways, the parent of what we now call “main NAEP.” In fact, the reason we now call it “long-term trend” is because it has stayed relatively the same since the 1970s, so we can measure change in student performance in mathematics and reading over the longer term. In the early 1990s, we developed a new national assessment that is now the flagship of large-scale assessments and referred to as main NAEP, or simply NAEP. You can see some of the key differences between the assessments in this table.

Table noting the differences between the main National Assessment of Educational Progress and long-term trend assessment. Key differences relate to the first assessment years, content being assessed, student groups being assessed, reporting levels, and delivery modes.

Taken together, these two NAEP assessments provide us with both a big picture window into student achievement over the decades and a more detailed and frequent snapshot of national, state-level, and district-level student performance.

With both assessments, we gain insights into factors that might influence performance with our school and student questionnaires. This year, we developed the questionnaires with COVID-specific questions. For example, we asked students if they had been learning remotely and how difficult or easy it was to learn if they attended classes from home or somewhere else outside of the classroom. The results will help us understand the impact of the pandemic’s disruption on learning.

I am looking forward to sharing these results with you. And there’s much more to come.

We will have a deeper and more comprehensive look at student achievement with the release of main NAEP results later this year. Then, we will report on student achievement at grades 4 and 8 for the nation, for states, and for 26 urban school districts. There will be multiple ways to explore these results, including by student demographic group, such as race/ethnicity, gender, and socioeconomic status; type or location of school; learning mode; NAEP achievement levels; and more. We will deepen our understanding of the long-term trends when we assess 13-year-olds this fall.

I’m certain there will be a lot of speculation on these results. My hope is that they will provide us, as a nation, with accurate, reliable information to move forward in a positive way to help all students succeed.