(AP Photo/Ron Harris, File)
(AP Photo/Ron Harris, File)

America’s state-based education systems got their first report card since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic this month, revealing Wisconsin students fared better than most of their peers in other states in both reading and math. 

The U.S. Department of Education’s National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) tested 4th and 8th graders earlier this year for proficiency in both subjects. Wisconsin’s scores relative to other states improved since the last time the test was administered in 2019, coming in within the top ten for math in both grade levels and for reading among eighth graders.

The tests were put on hold for 2020 and 2021 as the pandemic raged, forcing schools across the nation to implement safety measures and, in many cases, switch to virtual learning for significant periods of time. 

The new numbers appear to back up earlier findings from US News & World Report that showed Wisconsin was back in the top ten states for public education since Democratic Governor Tony Evers took office in 2019. Wisconsin had slipped to 18th in the statewide rankings under his Republican predecessor, Governor Scott Walker.  

The NAEP scores also revealed the challenge of dealing with longstanding disparities by race in education, including in Wisconsin. Every state in the country that reported data showed a gap between the scores of Black students and their white counterparts, Wisconsin’s gap was the largest.

In a statement accompanying release of the NAEP data, Wisconsin Superintendent of Public Instruction Jill Underly pledged to continue investing in public schools to “close the opportunity gap.”