National Institute on Aging

New Data Shows How the Pandemic Widened the Racial Gap in Educational Progress

Everyone feared that exclusively online education for students during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic would have a severe negative impact on educational progress. Now we have proof that in fact, that is the case. Average scores for age 9 students in 2022 declined 5 points in reading and 7 points in mathematics compared to 2020 on examinations conducted for the National Assessment of Educational Progress. This is the largest average score decline in reading since 1990, and the first-ever score decline in mathematics.

And this negative impact is even more pronounced for Black students, who were less likely to have the technological hardware, software, and broadband internet access to fully participate in the new online educational environment. Black parents and guardians were also more likely to continue to work outside the home than their White peers during the pandemic. Thus, many Black students at home had less help and supervision for the home-school experience.

The average score for 9-year-old Black students in reading declined from 205 to 199, a six-point decline. Whites experienced a five-point decline but their 2020 score was much higher.

On the mathematics assessment, the average score for 9-year-old Black students dropped from 225 to 212, a very large 13-point decline. For Whites, the average score declined by only 6 points from 250 to 244.

So the bottom line is that before the pandemic Black students scored significantly lower than White students and as a result of the pandemic, the scoring gap on the National Assessment of Educational Progress examinations widened significantly, particularly in mathematics.

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