• There was a drop in scores on both parameters -- reading and mathematics, compared to the 2019 results
  • The fall in math scores was the largest since the NAEP started in 1969
  • Black and Hispanic students saw bigger downgrading than white students

The COVID-19 pandemic has touched every facet of life. A recent news release by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) -- known as the "nation's report card" -- has brought to light the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the kids' learning in the U.S.

The results are disappointing and concerning. The decline in mathematics and reading is historic in a major setback for American kids. Reading skills hit 1992 levels, and four in 10 eighth graders could not comprehend basic math concepts.

"It is a serious wakeup call for us all," Peggy Carr, commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics, a branch of the Education Department, said in an interview, ABC News reported.

"In NAEP, when we experience a 1- or 2-point decline, we're talking about it as a significant impact on a student's achievement. In math, we experienced an 8-point decline — historic for this assessment," Carr further said.

For context, a 10-point change is equivalent to roughly a year of learning, according to researchers.

The NAEP test is given every two years, with the previous one happening in 2019. This year, the test, which was conducted in January and March, was undertaken by a sample of students in every state, including 26 of the nation's largest school districts.

There was a drop in scores on both parameters -- reading and mathematics, compared to the 2019 results. The fall in math scores was precipitous, the largest since the NAEP started in 1969.

"Let me be very clear: these results are not acceptable," Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said.

While the results of 2019 were not very encouraging, the outcome of this year's NAEP fares even worse, on a scale never seen before.

"This is more confirmation that the pandemic hit us really hard," said Eric Gordon, chief executive for the Cleveland Metropolitan School District.

"I'm not concerned that they can't or won't recover," Gordon said. "I'm concerned that the country won't stay focused on getting kids caught up."

Meanwhile, the school system has bolstered summer school and added after-school tutoring.

The NAEP report had many underlying layers to it. The setbacks were seen more for lowest performing students when compared with high-performing children.

Also seen in the report was a racial disparity in learning outcomes. In fourth grade, Black and Hispanic children saw bigger downgrading than white students.

"While the pandemic was a blow to schools and communities, we cannot use it as an excuse," Alberto Carvalho, superintendent of Los Angeles schools and a member of the National Assessment Governing Board, which sets the policies for the test, said. "We have to stay committed to high standards and expectations and help every child succeed."

Los Angeles was the only district to show progress, with eighth grade reading scores increasing by nine points. Cleveland was the worst with the largest single decline, by 16 points in fourth-grade reading, as well as a 15-point drop in fourth-grade math.

With most districts falling behind, it was an accomplishment just to hold even as shown by Dallas and Florida's Hillsborough County.

"We want our students to be prepared globally for STEM careers, science and technology, and engineering," Carr said. "This puts all of that at risk. We have to do a reset. This is a very serious issue, and it's not going to go away on its own," Carr concluded.

Books are seen in shelves at a closed public school in Beirut