Policy experts and parental rights organizations reacted to the newly released poor U.S. report card on math and reading scores.
The COVID-19 pandemic’s toll on the learning of kids across the U.S. was revealed through national test scores released Monday that show sharp declines in math and reading.
Math scores saw their largest decreases ever, while reading scores dropped to levels not seen since 1992 for fourth and eighth graders across the country, according to the Nation’s Report Card.
The average mathematics score for fourth-grade students fell five points from 2019 to 2022. The score for eight-graders dropped eight points. Reading for both grades fell three points since 2019."
Math scores were worst among eighth graders, with 38% earning scores deemed "below basic" — a cutoff that measures, for example, whether students can find the third angle of a triangle if they’re given the other two. That’s worse than 2019, when 31% of eighth graders scored below that level.
Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said the statistics are a sign that schools need to redouble their efforts, using billions of dollars that Congress gave schools to help students recover.
"Let me be very clear: these results are not acceptable," Cardona said.
Former Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos said that the Nation’s Report Card results are "dismal" and to not be "misled" that the matter is a "pandemic story."
"America’s students are in academic freefall. These results show the largest declines in math proficiency in history and reading scores falling across the board," DeVos said.
DeVos went on to say, "Don’t be misled into believing this is a pandemic story. Every data point shows academic achievement trending downward over the last decade. The conclusion could not be clearer: Our education system is broken. It continues to fail generation after generation of kids. We’ve tried everything suggested, including significantly increasing spending, to fix it. None of it has worked."
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis released a statement saying that the results "demonstrate once again that keeping kids in school throughout 2020 and 2021 has put Florida students well ahead of their peers, especially with younger and educationally at-risk students who were harmed the most from distance-learning in other states."
"In 2022, Florida’s 4th and 8th-grade students earned the state’s highest ever rankings in each assessment and demonstrated historic achievement gap closure for at-risk students at all levels. Florida’s Hispanic students, black students, and students with disabilities all scored in the top 10 in every category," DeSantis said.
Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., told Fox News Digital that "Democrats’ authoritarian mask mandates and prolonged school lockdowns have failed our students and put an entire generation behind."
"We should be laser-focused on addressing this historic learning loss and getting our students back our track. Instead, New York State’s Far Left Democrat leadership has used COVID-19 relief funds to advance their radical woke agenda in the classroom and Critical Race Theory indoctrination, rather than equipping students with fundamental math and reading skills. With over two-thirds of our eighth-grade students failing to demonstrate proficiency in reading and math, it is imperative we cease radical indoctrination and return back to the basics in our schools," she said.
The New York lawmaker went on to say, "Parents should no longer have to accept divisive instruction and the lowering of academic standards. Instead, we should insist on schools that teach all students to strive for excellence. As part of our Commitment to America, House Republicans will empower parents with a greater voice in their children’s education and the freedom to seek out the best learning environment to prepare them for lifelong success."
Jonthan Butcher, the education policy fellow at the Heritage Foundation, told Fox News Digital that "the results were worst for those students who were already scoring near the bottom of these indicators in math and reading."
"So if policymakers are serious about helping disadvantaged students then they need to refocus classroom time and taxpayers' money away from ‘equity audits’ and lessons about ‘gender identity’ and focus on the core skills of math and reading," Butcher said.
Furthermore, experts that are members of activist organizations that push for parental control of education weighed into the results.
First, American Federation for Children Senior Fellow Corey DeAngelis told Fox News Digital that "the data provide more evidence that power-hungry teachers unions hurt kids by fighting to keep schools closed for so long."
"Three independent evaluations have already found that students in states with longer school closures fared worse academically. Catholic schools, which were mostly open in person, performed better than public schools on all four assessments. Department of Defense schools, which were also reported to be mostly in person, were able to prevent learning loss on all four assessments, on average," DeAngelis said.
Nicole Neily, who leads the Parents Defending Education organization, told Fox News Digital that the "numbers prove that American parents’ concerns about their children’s education during the pandemic weren’t speculative – but in fact, perfectly valid."
"American students were the subject of a years-long social experiment that will impact our country’s economy for decades to come. It’s time to hold the education bureaucrats, activists, and public health officials who mocked, shamed, and derided families accountable for their decisions – and refuse to cede them any further authority (or funds) going forward," Neily said.
"This plunge in academic outcomes was predictable because people in positions of power allowed teachers unions and other fear-mongering influencers to put children last. We knew prolonged school closures and masking would have catastrophic effects on children. And now we have more evidence that they did," Parents Defending Education Outreach Director Erika Sanzi added.
The Fairfax County Parent Association released a statement claiming that the situation in Virginia is "even more dire."
"Fourth graders—greatly impacted in their formative educational years by consciously poor COVID school policies—saw an eleven-point drop in math scores, and a ten-point drop in reading scores, the largest declines in the nation. Make no mistake, FCPS, the largest school system in the commonwealth, has ‘helped’ to drag us to this point."
Fox News' Stephanie Sorace contributed to this report.