The military’s school system, which continued to focus on in-person learning while navigating the worldwide Covid pandemic, now leads the nation in reading and math scores for 4th and 8th graders.
The average scores of students in Department of Defense Education Activity schools ranged from 15 to 23 points higher than all national average scores on the 2022 National Assessment of Educational Progress reading and math assessments. Their scores either increased or held steady even as the scores of their public school counterparts across the U.S. decreased from 2019 pre-pandemic levels.
The NAEP is the only nationally representative and continuing assessment of what students know and can do in various subject areas. It was administered this year between Jan.10 and March 18 to 4th and 8th grade students in reading and math.
“DoDEA leaders focused on equity of access and continuity of instruction during the early stages of the pandemic with a rapid transition to remote learning, then worked to create conditions that enabled students to start returning to classrooms by the beginning of school year 20-21,” said Gilbert Cisneros, undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, in an announcement of the results. “Their work, coupled with strong partnership from military commands and parents, directly supported military readiness by allowing service members with students in DoDEA schools to remain focused on their military missions.”
DoDEA operates 160 schools in 11 foreign countries, seven states, Guam and Puerto Rico, with more than 66,000 students.
In early 2020, as COVID rolled across the globe, DoD schools moved to remote learning for the last several months of the 2019-2020 academic year, starting with schools in South Korea. By August 2020, as many public schools in the U.S. were still doing remote learning, DoDEA officials pushed to reopen schools for in-person learning, following guidance on safety protocols from DoD and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. From August 2020 to May 2021, the COVID infection rate was 0.8 percent among DoDEA students worldwide for the entire year, and 3.7 percent for staff members.
“The dedication and hard work of our teachers and administrators, along with the implementation of rigorous College and Career Ready Standards, sustained the impressive performance by DoDEA students on the 2019 NAEP despite the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic,”said DoDEA director Thomas M. Brady, in a statement about the results.
“Thanks to the incredible work of DoDEA educators and their students to adapt to changing conditions throughout COVID, our scores have remained stable and, in the case of 8th grade reading, actually increased,” said Brian Chance, president of the Federal Education Association.
The NAEP mathematics and reading scales range from 0 to 500.
According to the results:
♦ The average score for 4th grade DoDEA students was 235, the same as in 2019. The national average for 4th graders in reading was 216.
♦ The average score for 8th grade DoDEA students was 282, a two-point increase from 280 in 2019. The national average for 8th graders in reading was 259.
♦ The average score for 4th grade DoDEA students was 250, the same as in 2019. The national average for 4th graders in math was 235.
♦ The average score for 8th grade DoDEA students was 292, the same as in 2019. The national average score for 8th graders in math was 273.
In an earlier interview with Military Times, Brady said DoDEA’s students had sustained pre-pandemic education levels in the school system’s end-of-year tests, and he was looking forward to NAEP results.
“Right now, sustaining is a huge victory to me. We always want to improve, but through the COVID, our teachers and principals did the right thing in making sure kids learn,” he said.
DoDEA’s “emphasis on equity in education is reflected in higher scores across their diverse population and achievement gaps that are significantly smaller than the rest of the nation. I am particularly pleased to see those efforts reflected in Black and Hispanic student groups that are outperforming the nation overall,” Cisneros said.
♦ In 2022 4th grade DoDEA Black students scored an average 226, compared to an average of 198 among their Black 4th grade counterparts nationwide. DoDEA 4th grade Hispanic students scored an average 229, compared to a national average of 204 among their Hispanic counterparts nationwide.
♦ In 2022, 8th grade DoDEA Black students scored an average 271 in reading, compared to an average of 243 among their Black 8th grade counterparts nationwide. DoDEA 8th grade Hispanic students scored 281, compared to a national average of 250 among their Hispanic counterparts.
♦ In 2022, 4th grade DoDEA Black students scored an average of 237 in math, compared to a national average of 224 among their Black counterparts. DoDEA 4th grade Hispanic students scored an average of 246, compared to 231 among their national counterparts.
♦ In 2022, 8th grade DoDEA Black students scored an average of 272 in math, compared to 252 among their national counterparts. DoDEA 8th grade Hispanic students scored an average of 284, compared to an average of 261 among their national counterparts.
Not all students take the NAEP. In most cases, it’s a representative sample of students. But in DoDEA schools, all the students in the designated grades take the test that particular year.
Karen has covered military families, quality of life and consumer issues for Military Times for more than 30 years, and is co-author of a chapter on media coverage of military families in the book "A Battle Plan for Supporting Military Families." She previously worked for newspapers in Guam, Norfolk, Jacksonville, Fla., and Athens, Ga.