The NEAP, known as the Nation’s Report Card, is conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics to measure the math and reading performance of a representative sample of students in fourth and eighth grades. The test is typically conducted every two years, but was delayed from 2021 to winter 2022 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The results released on Monday show the percentage of Louisiana fourth graders scoring proficient in reading improved from 55% in 2019 to 57% in 2022 after eight years with no gains. The improvement compared to a 3% decline nationally, making Louisiana one of only two states that improved fourth-grade reading scores, according to the Louisiana Department of Education.

The percentage of Louisiana fourth graders who tested proficient in math declined by 2 points, compared to a 5-point national decline, while eighth-grade math scores dropped by 6 points, 2 points better than the 8-point decline nationally. Proficiency rates stood at 27% for fourth-grade math, 28% for fourth-grade reading, 27% for eighth-grade reading, and 19% for eighth-grade math.

“The progress our fourth graders made in reading is a testament to Louisiana’s educators for embracing our fundamental shift in how we teach students to read,” said Jenna Chiasson, deputy superintendent of teaching and learning. “We’ve set ambitious goals for our children and these results are a step in the right direction.”

While Louisiana students’ reading and math scores did not decline as quickly as students in other states, their scores remain below the national average for both grades and subjects. The average score of 229 out of 500 for fourth-grade math in Louisiana was 6 points behind the national average of 235, while the 212 average score for fourth-grade reading was 4 points behind the national average of 216.

The national average for eighth-grade math scores was 273, compared to a Louisiana average of 266, and the 257 average score for eighth-grade reading was 2 points behind the national average score of 259.

“While Louisiana’s fourth-grade reading growth on NAEP is encouraging, we cannot celebrate an ‘increase’ in national rankings just because Louisiana drops in student achievement weren’t as severe as other states,” Pelican Institute CEO Daniel Erspamer said. “The fact is that Louisiana student achievement is down substantially in fourth-grade math, eighth-grade reading, and eighth-grade math.

“We have to get serious about helping our teachers and students reverse learning loss and getting our kids back on a strong educational path,” he said. “Over half of the federal education recovery dollars remain unspent. It’s time to put those resources to good use in the classroom and directly for student supports.”

Nationally, math scores for both grades dropped by the largest amount on record, while reading scores fell by 3 points for both grades.

U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona described the NAEP results as “appalling, unacceptable, and a reminder of the impact that this pandemic has had on our learners.

“The data also represent a call to action for the important work we must do now for our students – especially those who have suffered the most during the pandemic,” he said.

Cardona said the U.S. Department of Education “will launch a new, expert-led series on the most promising tools to raise the bar and accelerate students’ learning in math and literacy” in the coming days.