Nation’s report card sheds light on COVID-19 impacts on students in core education subjects

The 2022 National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) released data highlighting national declines based on fourth and eighth grade math and reading assessments administered in the spring of 2022. The nationwide assessment included a sample of 5,400 fourth and eighth grade Houston Independent School District students from 107 campuses. A total of 216,500 fourth grade students from 5,550 schools and 215,700 eighth grade students from 5,010 schools participated in the nationwide administration of NAEP in 2022.

NAEP exams in math and reading are given at a random sample of schools to randomly selected students to assess progress between districts and at the national and state levels. The test is administered to fourth and eighth graders across the nation every two years. The test was not administered in 2021 due to interruptions experienced nationwide due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

NAEP employs the Trial Urban District Assessment (TUDA) to measure larger samples of student performances in 26 urban districts. Participating districts in 2022 included three other Texas districts (Austin, Dallas, and Fort Worth), Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, and Miami-Dade, as well as 18 other urban areas.

Overall trends for reading showed 44% of HISD fourth grade and 56% of HISD eighth grade students performed at or above the NAEP basic achievement level. In Houston, average student performance for fourth grade reading students is about the same and for eighth grade reading students is higher than the average student performance in Dallas and in Fort Worth.

Similarly, overall trends for math showed 63% of HISD fourth graders and 50% of HISD eighth graders performed at or above the NAEP basic achievement level. The average student performance for fourth grade math is about the same as the average student performance in Fort Worth and is higher than Dallas and Fort Worth for eighth grade math.

“This year’s NAEP scores are fundamental to understanding how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected our nation’s education system in these core subjects at a pivotal period in our students’ education journeys,” said Superintendent Millard House II. “This is why it continues to be important that we provide the necessary academic and non-academic supports to help every student succeed as detailed in our five-year strategic plan.”

All four participating Texas districts outperformed other NAEP participating districts nationwide for NAEP defined ELL performance in fourth and eighth grade math and reading. When compared with other participating districts in Texas, the average scale score for ELL (English Language Learner) students in Houston was lower than the average scale score for ELL students in Dallas. The average scale score for eighth grade reading and fourth and eighth grade math was about the same as Austin and Fort Worth and the same as Austin, Dallas, and Fort Worth for fourth grade reading.

“Sustaining achievement in any grade or subject in the face of a global crisis is no easy feat and is a testament to Houston’s academic continuity planning during the crisis” said Executive Director of Council of the Great City Schools Ray Hart. “While the challenges are not unique, the district’s proactive efforts to address learning and provide academic supports show that the district is committed to keeping students on track to graduate college and career ready.”

Compared to average scale scores for large cities, HISD students performed about the same in fourth and eighth grade mathematics but performed significantly lower in grades four and eight reading. The data continues to highlight that investments in HISD such as wraparound supports and newly required positions at every school such as a librarian, nurse, counselor, or social worker are steps in the right direction. HISD has leveraged ESSER funding to provide the same base experience to every student to improve overall student outcomes.