Nebraska 4th and 8th grade students fared better on standardized math and reading tests last year than students in many other states, but celebrating the fact may be shortsighted.
The recently released results of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) testing, known as America’s report card, have already been lauded by Nebraska educators, administrators and candidates for re-election to school boards.
But those who are celebrating aren’t discussing how these results are still far below the pre-pandemic levels of achievement. While Nebraska’s students may have performed better than the majority of their peers in other states, they have yet to match their own previous levels of achievement from just three years previous.
That students in other states are doing worse than students in Nebraska is of little comfort to parents.
Nationwide, no states showed improvement in average reading or math scores from 2019. The decline in math scores, however, was the largest ever recorded.
The Lincoln Journal Star reports the average ACT score in Nebraska has dropped to the lowest level in at least a decade.
The national average ACT composite score was 19.8, the lowest average score seen in three decades. It’s also the first time since 1991 that the average score fell below 20. Nebraska fared even worse in this measure, with an average score of only 19.4 out of a possible 36 points.
“These declines are not simply a byproduct of the pandemic, they are further evidence of longtime systemic failures that were exacerbated by the pandemic,” ACT CEO Janet Godwin said in a statement.
This is the fifth year in a row to see declining ACT scores, a trend that began well before the onset of COVID restrictions.
Other significant findings from the state’s NAEP results revealed English students saw dramatic drops in proficiency scores in 2022. They scored 16 points lower in 4th grade reading versus their previous scores from 2019, and 13 points lower in 8th-grade reading. The declines for black students in Nebraska were even worse.
The main takeaway from the data may be that Nebraska’s 4th and 8th graders are outperforming their peers in other states, but that they are underperforming their own earlier marks in dramatic fashion. It’s a point not lost on many candidates for local school boards and the State Board of Education who have been outspoken on the need for better results throughout their campaigns.
A new political action committee, Protect Nebraska’s Children (PNC) has endorsed candidates for all four open seats on the State Board of Education and are actively encouraging supporters to get involved by attending meetings, giving testimony and, above all, supporting candidates under the banner of “educate, not indoctrinate.”
The group also works on behalf of candidates for elected positions at all levels of education, representing the first fully coordinated effort to address education concerns from the right at the ballot box in Nebraska.