A recent national assessment for fourth- and eighth-grade students shows declining academic performance in four of Texas’ largest school districts.

Every few years, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) administers the congressionally mandated National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) to fourth- and eighth-grade students in select schools across the country. Each state is provided average scores out of a possible 500 for reading and mathematics.

In this year’s assessment, Texas was represented by the participation of Austin ISD, Fort Worth ISD, Dallas ISD, and Houston ISD.

Test scores in these districts fell in nearly every category. Austin ISD was the only district to see any improvement since the last assessment in 2019, with fourth-grade reading scores climbing from 217 to 220. Overall, Texas ranks above the national average in reading among fourth-graders.

Austin ISD declined by at least three points in the other three categories. Eighth-grade students’ math scores fell the most, from 282 to 273, reducing the percentage of those performing at the NAEP Basic Level from 66 percent to 59 percent. Similarly, fourth-grade math scores fell from 243 to 239.

Fort Worth ISD and Dallas ISD experienced similar declines, with fourth- and eighth-graders’ math scores falling in both districts. In Fort Worth ISD, fourth-graders’ math scores fell from 233 to 226. In Dallas ISD, only 47 percent of eighth-grade students completed math problems for their grade level.

Houston ISD was no better. Fourth-grade math scores fell from 235 to 226, and eighth-grade math scores fell from 274 to 265. Reading skills in the district also declined, with less than 45 percent of fourth-graders able to read at the NAEP Basic Level.

These test results correspond with nationwide trends. Average scores in reading and mathematics declined, and so did students’ confidence in their academic abilities. The NCES reported the decline in students’ mathematics scores was the “largest ever.”

The NCES blamed the poor results on the COVID-19 pandemic, citing “instability at home, decreased access to resources, teacher shortages, cyberbullying, and an uptick in violence once schools reopened.” However, the agency failed to mention the impact of school closures, which pushed students across the country out of schools and forced them to attend virtual classes, causing millions to fall behind.

NCES Associate Commissioner for Assessment Daniel J. McGrath warned about the potential effects poor mathematics skills can have on students’ futures.

“Eighth grade is a pivotal moment in students’ mathematics education, as they develop key mathematics skills for further learning and potential careers in mathematics and science,” said McGrath. “If left unaddressed, this could alter the trajectories and life opportunities of a whole cohort of young people, potentially reducing their abilities to pursue rewarding and productive careers in mathematics, science, and technology.”

As academic performance declines and schools promote radical gender ideologies and divisive racial policies, parents across the state are calling for lawmakers to implement school choice legislation and provide students with other options.

Katy Marshall

Katy graduated from Tarleton State University in 2021 after majoring in history and minoring in political science.