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Photo Courtesy of W.Va. Legislative Photography – Paul Hardesty, the new president of the West Virginia Board of Education, wants to make improving relations between the board and the Legislature a top priority.

CHARLESTON – The release of a national education report card Monday confirmed what West Virginia education leaders already knew: that the COVID-19 pandemic led to declines in math and reading scores which were already low before the pandemic.

According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) 2022 Report Card, English Language Arts (ELA) and math scores for students in fourth and eighth grades decreased nationwide. It was the largest score decline in math for fourth and eighth grades since NAEP’S initial assessments in 1990.

NAEP assessments report out math and ELA results based on average scores that range from zero to 500. According to the NAEP Report Card, the national average for math in grade four was 236, five points below 2019 pre-pandemic scores and just one point above scores from 2003. For eighth graders, the average math score was 274, eight points below the 2019 score and four points below 2003 scores.

Reading score decreases were not as dramatic but still below 2019 levels prior to the COVID-19 pandemic and school shutdowns in the spring of 2020 and during the 2020-2021 school year. According to NAEP, the national average for reading among fourth graders was 217, three points below the 2017 score and one point below 2003 scores. For eighth graders, the average score was 260, also three points below 2019 and 2003 average scores.

In West Virginia, fourth graders during the 2021-2022 school year scored 226 in math, six points below 2019 scores. Eighth graders scored 260 in math, 12 points below 2019 scores. In reading, fourth graders scored 205, eight points below 2019 scores, while eighth graders scored 249, six points below 2019 scores.

“No state – not one state – had score increases in math and reading from 2019 to 2022,” said Gov. Jim Justice during a virtual briefing with reporters Monday at the state Capitol Building. “That’s a real shame. COVID-19 took a toll, there’s no question about that. West Virginia’s scores are not great, nowhere close to great. They can absolutely, surely be improved upon.”

West Virginia’s NAEP scores are similar to the state’s own assessments. According to the Department of Education’s Balanced Scorecard, math and ELA scores tumbled during the same time period.

More than 58% of elementary school students during the 2021-2022 school year partially met ELA standards, a 4.5% drop from the 2018-2019 school year. Nearly 52% of middle school students partially met ELA standards in 2022, down by 1.7% from 2019. And more than 57% of high school students in 2022 partially met ELA standards, down by 3.2% from 2019.

In math, more than 59% of elementary students partially met standards in 2022, down by 4.9% from 2019. Nearly 52% of middle school students partially met math standards, down 5.7% from 2019. And 41% of high school students were in the red in the state’s Balance Scorecard in 2020 for not meeting math standards, down 3.2% from 2019 levels which were also rated red for not meeting standards.

“I’m in constant communication with our Department of (Education) and everything,” Justice said. “Everybody there sees and absolutely acknowledges that we’ve still got work to do. We’re going to continue to do just that.”

Paul Hardesty was chosen by his fellow state Board of Education members as president earlier this summer. During his first meeting as president in August, board members were presented with a report on accountability results for students enrolled in a full academic year based on the general summative assessment students take each school year.

That report noted some improvements in scores between the 2020-2021 and 2021-2022 school years, though numbers remained below pre-pandemic levels. In a statement, Hardesty said the NAEP results were sobering. Since becoming board president, Hardesty has made focusing public education back on math and reading a high priority.

“The scores released today were disappointing, but not surprising,” Hardesty said. “These scores are one of the big reasons that I have asked Superintendent (David) Roach and the Department of Education to ‘Get Back to the Basics’ and focus on Math, Reading and Writing. Going back to the basics on teaching core subjects will be a focus during my time as President of this board.”

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