Maine students’ test scores in math and reading declined over the course of the pandemic. The same is true for states across the country.

The findings from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, also known as “the nation’s report card,” show that the pandemic caused deep learning setbacks for students in Maine and nationwide, erased years of academic progress and widened racial disparities in educational success.

U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona called the results of the nation’s report card “appalling and unacceptable” in a call with reporters Oct. 21. “We must treat the task of catching our children up with the urgency this moment demands,” he said.

Aligning with national trends, Maine students’ math scores declined more significantly than reading. However, Maine student scores in both subjects dropped more significantly than the national average.

Nationally, math scores for eighth grade fell by eight points on a 500-point scale, from 282 to 2019 to 274 this year, and in fourth grade by five points, from 240 in 2019 to 235 this year.

Reading scores across the country dropped by three points for both eighth and fourth graders.

In Maine, math scores declined by 10 points for eighth graders, from 283 to 273 and by eight points for fourth graders, from 241 to 233.

Maine students’ reading scores declined by eight points in both eighth and fourth grade.

The U.S. Department of Education randomly selected and tested hundreds of thousand of fourth and eighth graders. The exams are generally conducted every two years but the exam was pushed from 2021 to 2022 due to the pandemic. This is the first time the test had been conducted since before the pandemic and is considered the most comprehensive national study of the pandemic’s impact on education to date.

However, according to the Maine Department of Education, this assessment provides a very narrow view of Maine student achievement. The Maine DOE said state-administered assessments, which test more Maine students more frequently, better represent student performance. The results of the state exam show around 80 percent of Maine’s students achieving at or above grade level compared to national norms.

Still, Maine DOE Director of Communications Markus Mrowka said the state will continue to work to help students recover from pandemic learning loss.

“The goal of the department’s efforts moving forward will be to continue to promote immersive, hands-on, interdisciplinary learning experiences that reengage students and expand learning opportunities to help them recover from pandemic disruptions,” Mrowka said.

“In the coming year, we will continue to partner closely with parents, teachers, school staff, and communities to ensure that students are being given every opportunity to succeed in the future.”