The Nation’s Report Card shows decline in test scores for Minnesota, Wisconsin

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The results for the National Assessment of Educational Progress have been released, and they are not good.

Reading and math test scores decreased for fourth and eighth graders nationwide during the pandemic, including in Minnesota and Wisconsin.

The last test was done in 2019. Average reading scores have decreased by three points since then. Math scores decreased by five points for fourth graders and by eight points for eighth graders. For math, this is the largest decline since testing began in 1990. 

The National Center for Education attributes this historic decline to the pandemic, an opinion echoed by many parents.

“It’s not surprising to me at all that that’s what the findings are,” said father of two Todd Piket. “It’s really hard to keep them engaged sitting there in front of a computer for that long of a time. Even when they’re in a classroom, you know, yeah, they’re sitting there. But they can get up, they can move around, there’s recess, things like that.”

Noticing her difficulty with distance learning, Piket and his wife decided to home-school their ten year old. 

“My wife is the one who actually did the teaching, so that worked out really well,” said Piket. “And they were able to kind of focus and grow closer together, actually do it.”

This one-on-one focus on schooling led to the discovery that their daughter has dyscalculia, a learning disability that makes it difficult for kids to understand, learn, and do math.

“Her cousin had a similar issue and we’re like, ‘Oh, dyscalculia. What’s that?’ And then because of the homeschooling opportunity we were able to do, we noticed that she was jumbling some numbers around,” explained Piket. “That led us to a whole ‘well, maybe she has this too’. And so then we contacted Duluth Core.”

Duluth Core Learning focuses on the cause behind learning difficulties rather than classical tutoring.

“We’re more cognitive therapy because we individualize and we work on the building blocks to learning. The memory and the processing and the attention and reflex integration,” said Executive Director Carolyn Haney. “And so we’re really working on that whole person and helping them be successful and apply their skills to their learning.”

Many parents like Piket have been turning to outside help recently.

“I would say that we are getting more calls than we’ve ever gotten over the last few years. A lot of panicked parents and concerned parents,” said Haney. “I think that’s partly because parents have had to work with their kids more closely, and so they’ve been able to discover a little bit more about what’s happening and when their kids are struggling.”

While many kids are having learning difficulties due to the pandemic, some may have underlying issues. 

“I think one of the key things to look for is just the torture of homework. You know, when you’re working with your child that you have to put in so much time working with them. And it doesn’t seem to stick,” said Haney. ”You might be working on reading, for instance. You might be working on decoding a word and you’re breaking it down and you’re sounding it out and you spend a lot of time on it and they finally get it. Your kid finally remembers the word, and then you go to the next sentence and the same word is there, and they look at it and go, ‘I don’t know what that word is’.”

These difficulties can also affect the behavior of your child.

“You get a lot of tears. You’re at wit’s end. You’ve tried everything and nothing seems to work. Nothing seems to stick,” emphasized Haney. “In schools they want to fix, they want to help as much as they can and they’re doing everything they can. But progress just isn’t happening. Kids have a lot of ways of dealing with that, trying to be invisible, being the class clown.”

For issues like dyscalculia, tutoring can help immensely. 

“It takes that one-on-one and the ability to really look at what’s happening and individualize and break it down,” said Haney. “It isn’t the kid’s fault. They’re doing the best that they can, and sometimes they need more of this support and that patience and understanding.”