JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — The “Nation’s Report Card” shows the average reading and math scores of Missouri students have decreased significantly since before the pandemic. 

The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) said it normally doesn’t bring the report from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) to the Missouri State Board of Education, but because of the unprecedented situation, they felt like members needed to know how Missouri compares. 

“We’ve never seen anything like this,” Missouri’s NAEP state coordinator Jeremy Ellis said Tuesday. “We’ve never seen drops like this before. They are historic and significant.”

It’s no surprise that the pandemic affected students’ learning after the doors were closed and students were forced to learn online. 

“NAEP scores have historically been flat for two decades, this is the first time we’ve seen this kind of decline,” DESE Commissioner Margie Vandeven said. 

DESE presented Missouri’s results to the State Board of Education during its monthly meeting on Tuesday, showing a decrease in fourth and eighth grade math and reading. Ellis said the main NAEP is given every other year, testing fourth and eighth graders in mathematics and reading. 

“Missouri along with the nation, saw some very steep declines in the assessment from 2019 to 2022,” Ellis said. “The bright note here would be that Missouri has statistically stayed the same as national public average.”

DESE Assistant Commissioner Lisa Sireno said normally the test is given in February on odd numbered years, but because of the pandemic, NAEP decided to forgo 2021’s assessment and instead move it to 2022. 

“NAEP is typically administered every other year, but we did find ourselves in an unprecedented situation,” Sireno said. 

Missouri’s average score for fourth grade math was 232, but that’s a decline of eight points from 2019. In fourth grade reading, the state averages a score of 213, but in 2019, the score was 238. 

When it comes to eighth grade math, Missouri averaged a score of 272, a decrease from 281 in 2019. Missouri’s eighth grade reading results were 258 compared to 263 three years ago. 

Ellis said the results show drops were more significant at the lower levels and less significant at the advanced and proficient levels. 

“What do we need to do differently to achieve better results and better outcomes for our kids, and that’s learning from the other states on what they are doing,” State Board of Education member Kerry Casey said. 

With more than 30 states ahead of Missouri, the board wants data to see what other states are doing to receive better outcomes. 

“It’s interesting to look at the states that tend to do better and what they pay teachers. The state budget devoted to education because, my guess is, Missouri is one of the lowest in both of those categories,” State Board of Education Vice President Carol Hallquist said. “I personally think it influences educational outcome.”

Vandeven said with the ongoing tripledemic, the state needs to have a plan to make sure scores are increasing and school doors remain open. 

“We’re still having chronic absenteeism issues because people are sick again,” Vandeven said. “We have the flu; we have RSV and we still have COVID. We need to do whatever we can, if something like this occurs again to make sure we’re keeping our classroom doors open.”

Two of Missouri’s boarding states, Illinois and Iowa, still saw a decline but scored higher than the national average. 

The board is asking DESE to have data and research from other states by March. 

Back in August, preliminary test scores showed Missouri students are still not performing as well in school as they were before the pandemic. 

The preliminary test scores show that 39% of students are proficient in math, which is up four percent from 2021. “Proficient” means meeting expectations for moving on to the next grade level. There was a small increase in science in 2022 at 38% compared to 2021 when the rate was 37%. There was a decrease in English, down to 43%. That’s a difference of a two-percentage-point drop from 2021 and six from 2019. 

Data on test scores in ethnic groups remained consistent from previous years. Asian students performed with a proficiency rate of 57%, while Black students performed at a 17% proficiency rate. Preliminary results also showed that younger students had felt the effects of the pandemic. To see Missouri’s results on the NAEP website, click here.

Click here to see the report DESE gave to the State Board of Education on Tuesday.