Technical factors linked to higher NAEP scores

Access to technology and good learning environments make a difference when it comes to student success.

That’s a key lesson from the latest National School Progress Assessment scores, which showed widespread declines in reading and math results due to the pandemic.

A teacher, a quiet place to study, internet access at home and at school, all of these things, when done right, will have a huge impact.

Joseph South, Director of Learning, International Society for Technology in Education

Achievement scores showed that top performers were more likely to have access to laptops or other computing devices, an internet connection, a quiet place to work at home, school supplies and real-time daily lessons than lower-performing students, according to teacher survey data released last month alongside student results on the NAEP, also known as the National Report Card.

More than half of 4th graders — 58%, according to the math survey — have been learning remotely for at least part of the 2020-2021 school year. But learning conditions outside of school were very different for students who performed in the top quartile (high performers) than for many of those who performed in the bottom quartile (lowest performers). performing).

The most striking finding: High-performing students were more likely — in some cases, significantly more likely — to participate in real-time virtual lessons with a teacher every day or almost every day. For example, nearly three-quarters (71%) of high-achieving 8th grade math students took these courses, compared to less than half (41%) of low-achieving students.

The differential for Grade 8 reading was even more dramatic, with 74% of top performers participating in daily or nearly daily virtual lessons, compared to just 39% of bottom performers.

The percentages were closer for younger students, but still showed significant differences. Fifty percent of high-achieving Grade 4 reading students had daily access to real-time virtual lessons, compared to 37% of low-achieving students.

Access to technology and appropriate learning environments are important

Access to technology also had a significant effect on success. For example, for Grade 4 math, 80% of high-achieving students had access to a desktop or laptop computer, or tablet, all the time. But only 50% of low performers could say the same.

Appropriate learning environments also had a big influence on success:

  • 90% of high-performing 4th grade math students had a quiet place to work available at least some of the time, compared to 70% of low-performing students.
  • 89% of top performers had consistent access to school supplies, compared to 61% of bottom performers.
  • And 87% of high performers had access to an internet connection at least some of the time, compared to 71% of low performers.

Survey results for Grade 4 Reading and Grade 8 Math and Reading revealed similar gaps.

Overall, students’ NAEP scores have plummeted, revealing the devastating impact of the pandemic’s disrupted learning. Results for students who took the test in the spring of 2022 — the NAEP’s first major administration for these years since the start of the pandemic — show the largest drop in math performance in grades 4 and 8 since the test program began in 1990.

Clearly, reliable technology tools — and real-time lessons — were essential for effective virtual learning, said Joseph South, director of learning for the International Society for Technology in Education.

It reminded him of an analogy: a patient trying to get substantial meals in liquid form. “If you had some access [to those tools] then you would suck your nutrition through a little straw,” he said. “If you had a lot of access, it was like drinking from a giant glass. If you didn’t have access, then you got no nutrition.

This analogy will continue to hold true, South pointed out, as schools transition to a more digital model of teaching delivery. “A teacher, a quiet place to study, internet access at home and at school, all of these things, when done right, will have a huge impact,” he said.

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