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Report shows Arkansas students' grade scores drop after pandemic

The nation's report card showed that fourth and eighth graders in Arkansas dropped their math and reading scores between 2019 and 2022.

ARKANSAS, USA — A report shows that math and reading scores have dropped for students nationwide, including here in Arkansas.

The report comes from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, also known as the “Nation’s report card.” 

The findings in Arkansas are based on a random sample of 3,500 fourth graders and 3,600 eighth graders from 176 public schools who took the assessment. It shows fourth graders in Arkansas have maintained the same reading scores while seeing a decrease in math scores. 

For eighth graders, they've seen a decrease in both math and reading scores. According to the Arkansas Department of Education, these declines mirror what’s happening across the country.

The University of Arkansas' Gema Zamarro said that for many in education policy, this doesn't come as a surprise.

"We already have seen some preliminary data from other companies like map scores, saying how kids are being affected," said Zamarro. 

"So we have seen unprecedented declines in these lighters results, especially math, I think the pandemic has had a big impact on student achievement. Part of the reason is just the situation itself, we were all affected, we have to find different ways of doing schooling."

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The nation's report card for 2022 shows that students across the nation dropped scores in both math and reading since 2019, a time before the pandemic.

"It could be because in-person teaching creates the environment where kids have more meaningful connections with the teachers, they need that for learning," Zamarro said. "Also, there are reasons of access. Not all the kids have access to the technology that was needed."

She also pointed out that teachers have also been hit hard by the pandemic. "Their levels of stress and burnout have been really high, and they have been asked to teach in different ways."

Both the Arkansas and Oklahoma departments of education said that these results stem from the effects of the pandemic. Zamarro explained that many school systems have already started implementing some solutions. The first is tutoring, which has proved very successful. 

RELATED: Test scores show historic COVID setbacks for kids across US

The second is lengthening the school days or year. When asked about cost-effectiveness, Zamarro explained that covered funds or student teachers could help with tutoring. She also said the solutions wouldn't need to be for all kids, but for the ones who really need it. She also encouraged parents to be involved as well.

"When you ask parents in surveys how concerned they are about their kids, it seems that their levels of concern have gone down through the pandemic," said Zamarro. "I think it's important that parents are receiving the information to know exactly where the kid is and what the kid will need."

Zamarro did clarify that this does not mean that students are not learning, just that they've done so at a slower rate than before the pandemic.

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