Alaska students stay steady in reading but decline in math since pre-pandemic, says national assessment

a school hallway
An empty hallway inside a Juneau public school. (Photo by Lisa Phu/Alaska Beacon)

Math scores were down this year for students in Alaska from pre-pandemic 2019, according to results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress released Monday. The change in math scores mirrored a trend seen across the country. 

Reading scores, on the other hand, for Alaska students stayed about the same.

The national average score declines in mathematics for students in 4th and 8th grades were the largest ever recorded in that subject. No state saw any improvement in math.

In reading, the average score for 8th grade students in Alaska this year, 252.55 (out of 500), was slightly higher than it was three years ago, 252.39. For 4th graders, the average reading score for 2022 was slightly lower than 2019 – 203.83 from 204.37. Reading scores for both grade levels in Alaska remain lower than the national average.

Fourth graders in Alaska dropped about 6 points in math in the three years – 226 in 2022 from 232 in 2019. Eighth graders dropped 4 points – 270 from 274. Scores, again, were lower than the national average.

Lisa Parady, executive director of the Alaska Council of School Administrators, said the numbers tell a story educators already know – students were impacted by the disruption to their learning caused by the pandemic and it will take a while to work through those effects. Still, students and teachers continue to show up and do the hard work of learning and teaching, she said. 

“The direct crisis of the pandemic has been worsened at every level by inadequate access to internet and crisis level educator turnover. Despite these challenges, teachers have provided immense social and emotional support to students, families and communities throughout the pandemic and continue to provide that empathy and care today. To look at test scores now would be shortsighted when the focus of Alaska’s schools must be squarely on growth and recovery,” Parady said.

Roughly a quarter of Alaska students performed at or above the assessment’s proficient level in 4th and 8th grade reading, which is not significantly different from 2019. Proficiency levels in math were lower between 2019 and 2022 – in 4th grade, a drop from 33% to 28%, and in 8th grade, a drop from 29% to 23%.

In 2022, 4th and 8th grade male students in Alaska had average reading scores that were lower than that for female students by 13 points and 16 points, respectively, according to the results. Scores between male and female students were not significantly different in math. 

Students from low-income families in Alaska performed between 25 to 30 points lower than their peers across 4th and 8th grade reading and math, the results showed. 

The national tests are given every two years, but the pandemic delayed the 2021 test. The NAEP is designed to provide a common yardstick to measure what students know and are able to do at the national, state and school district levels. Scores are released by the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education. See Alaska’s state profile here.

COVID-19 has caused the reported deaths of 758 children from 5 to 17 years old in the United States, and studies have found that children contributed to the spread of the virus, which has caused the death of more than 1 million Americans reported so far.

Alaska Beacon is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Alaska Beacon maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Andrew Kitchenman for questions: Follow Alaska Beacon on Facebook and Twitter.

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