The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) 2022 Nation's Report Card released on Monday showed Alabama's average fourth-grade mathematics scores remained the same from 2019 to 2020 but dropped five points for eighth graders.

Despite the lack of improvement, Alabama's fourth and eighth graders rank higher than they did in 2019 compared to other states.

Alabama wasn't the only state in which average scores declined throughout the pandemic. In fact, most states saw a drop in scores for fourth and eighth graders between 2019 and 2022.

The NAEP also showed that Alabama went from last place to 40th in fourth-grade math and from 49th to 39th in fourth-grade reading.

Alabama is still three points behind the national reading average and five points behind in math.

State Superintendent of the Alabama State Department of Education (ALSDE), Dr. Eric Mackey, went on last week's broadcast of Alabama Public Television's "Spotlight on Education" to address the NAEP scores and the state of Alabama’s schools.

“We are very excited about what we see in fourth grade,” Mackey said. "It just shows where you spend your time, where you spend your money, is where you see results.”

This year, Alabama passed the Numeracy Act, which allocates millions of dollars to acquire mathematics coaches to assist K-5 teachers.

The Numeracy Act stemmed from the Literacy Act, a 2019 law that was designed to ensure students could read at an appropriate level by the conclusion of the third grade.  

Mackey attributed the improvements to the efficacy of both acts, the work of the ALSDE, the Legislature and Gov. Kay Ivey as the reason for the progress made in education.

“It’s paying off,” Mackey continued. “There’s good things going on. I’ve said to several people, I’m very happy where we are. We’ve really done well, jumping from 52nd to 40th in math, and 49th to 39th in reading. But if we are still in this same place five years from now, we will have failed because this is the pathway forward. We are not to the finish line yet, but we’re definitely on the right path.”

Far from avoiding the lingering issues across every subject in Alabama schools, Mackey took the time to acknowledge the continuing problems and the need for the ALSDE not to rest on its laurels.

“It takes time to make these kinds of changes, Mackey said. “But, you know, we are turning a big ship and just feel really good. This is a week for all Alabamians to be proud of the work we’ve done [and] the investment we’ve made.

“[Gov. Kay Ivey], our state school board, [and] our legislature all have invested. And all those folks need to sit back tonight, take a deep breath, [and] enjoy the moment because it’s working; they should celebrate in their investments. But then, next week, we need to jump back in the cold water and get swimming because we’ve got more work to be done.”

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