NC Read⁠i⁠ng and Ma⁠t⁠h Scores Rema⁠i⁠n Below Pre-Pandem⁠i⁠c Percen⁠t⁠ages, Desp⁠i⁠⁠t⁠e Grow⁠t⁠h

December 18, 2023

Kayla Maloney

CALN Project Manager

Teacher Asking a Question to the Class

Student performance on end-of-grade tests transparently divulges whether states are implementing the right methods to prioritize student achievement. Reading proficiency and math skills are perhaps the two most telling indicators of student capability.  

Since the pandemic, the nation has experienced learning loss to a drastic degree. EOG scores have revealed that North Carolina students averaged 20 percentage points lower in math in the 2020-2021 school year than the 2018-2019 school year, while reading saw a similar decline by about 11 points. 

The first year of COVID had the worst impact on student achievement, as schools transitioned (not always smoothly) to online learning. Students not only had to adapt to a new teaching style, but they also had to deal with many other changes like the nationwide decline in mental health and working in a more distracting learning environment. 

Since North Carolina has received $6 billion in COVID relief from the federal government, it is expected that student success on the EOGs should be increasing since the initial decline wrought by the first year of the pandemic. Fortunately, this is the case. The question then is, is the improvement we have seen thus far acceptable? 

Before the pandemic, 52.6 percent of students achieved grade level proficiency or above in math on the EOGs. This number dropped to 32.7 percent in the 2020-2021 school year, and has since climbed back up to 44.7 in the 2022-2023 school year. Reading scores followed a similar, though slightly less drastic, trend.  

We can see then that the percentage of proficient students is climbing, however it still remains well below the threshold of pre-pandemic achievement. 

Moreover, according to The Center Square, “The gains in the state more than double the national average. North Carolina scores, however, remain below the national average.” 

This is a promising sign. With gains in student achievement happening quicker than the rest of the nation, we can confidently say that acceptable efforts are being employed so far, and we can hope for continued growth in the future. Healing takes time, so we cannot expect proficiency levels to be restored right away. 

That being said, the pre-pandemic percentage of student proficiency in both math and reading was low to begin with. With barely half of students scoring at or above grade level in both subjects, this 2019 figure should not remain a goal to be met. That figure should serve as a reminder of whence we came, and a motivation to surpass previous success rates and come out of the pandemic stronger than before. 

North Carolina has implemented measures to improve student performance. Their Language Essentials for Teachers of Reading and Spelling (LETRS) program has already caused a significant improvement in reading proficiency.  

With the state expanding its efforts to reinvigorate student achievement and combat the pandemic-inflicted learning loss, proficiency percentages in the 50s must be no more than a previous benchmark to blow away. It is time to aim higher for the sake of our students.