Math scores are slipping among American students, nationwide test shows

Math down.
Math down.
Image: AP/Kiichiro Sato
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American students’ math scores just slipped for the first time in 15 years, in a nationwide test known as the “Nation’s Report Card.

Fourth and eighth grade students around the US averaged lower marks on the math portion of the US National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) than they did in 2013—the first dip since the test began in 1990.

While progress was down, scores were still well above historical averages, the results showed.

Administered every two years and overseen by the US Department of Education, the NAEP measures student progress at the national and state level in subjects including mathematics, reading, geography, civics, science, US history and writing.

Education officials told the New York Times that the unexpected setback in mathematics could be related to changes in Common Core standards at the state level—a matter of great debate around the country. Common Core standards, which have been adopted by 45 states, set benchmarks for mathematics and reading that shape the curriculum for every grade. In the NAEP test, questions for fourth-graders related to data analysis, statistics and geometry may not have been covered in class because they are not part of the Common Core, the publication noted as an example.

Progress was also stagnant in reading, as it has been throughout the test’s history.