The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Lower Test Performance a Symptom of the Real Problem

Jun 26, 2023

The federal standardized test known as the nation’s report card, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), was administered to 8,700 13-year-old students from October to December last year. The results are characterized as “plunging”—average math scores fell by nine points between 2020 and 2023, and are at their lowest levels since 1990. And average reading scores fell by four points and are at their lowest since 2004.

Quoting averages doesn’t even tell the complete story. There were much larger losses in the scores of students from low-income areas.

We know that most children experienced academic struggles during the pandemic. But children in more prosperous areas were not hit as hard. They were able to have tutors and learning pods during the height of the pandemic. They were returned to in-person school earlier because their wealthier school districts had the resources to make in-person schooling safe.

But kids in poorer and working class areas were kept in remote learning longer, often without access to the internet, or laptops, or anyone to be able to work with them academically—because their parents were the essential workers. And so the steeper losses in test scores reflect this disparity.

But the disparity in test scores did not start with the pandemic. Long before the pandemic—going back over a hundred years, as long as standardized tests have been administered, there have been disparities in test scores: the main dividing line between who scores higher and who scores lower on standardized tests, has always been social class.

Test scores are just a symptom of the real problem. This richest country in the world is divided into social classes, where all institutions are unequal and inequitable. This educational system deprives the vast majority of children from having access to a high quality education that would allow them to be able to perform well on academic tests in the first place.

It has been proven, time and time again, what children need in order to develop intellectually and socially. Vast financial resources would have to be devoted to all school districts throughout the country. For starters.

And despite all the attempts by education reformers and teachers and parents to secure more funding, this system is incapable of actually releasing and devoting the vast amount of resources needed to provide the best education to all children. Finally, to level the playing field, the working class will have to take on this class system of capitalism itself.