Minnesota 8th highest in lifetime income loss from interrupted learning

I’ve previously written how Minnesota performance on national tests is the worst in 30 years, but what does that mean for the impacted students’ futures?

Lower skills, and therefore future economic losses, according to an analysis of National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) scores by Eric Hanushek, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University. “Extensive research demonstrates a simple fact: those with higher achievement and greater cognitive skills earn more. The evidence suggests that the value of higher achievement persists across a student’s entire work life.”

For Minnesota, based on average learning loss, students can expect over a 7 percent loss in future income, Hanushek projects.

This puts Minnesota as the 8th highest state in expected loss in lifetime income from interrupted learning. Students from Oklahoma and Delaware are expected to face the highest loss, at nearly 9 percent each. Average learning loss in Utah was the lowest, putting students from the state at an expected loss of lifetime income at just under 2 percent.

Hanushek also estimated the learning loss impact on a state’s average GDP (gross domestic product) for the remainder of the 21st century, with Minnesota’s expected GDP loss at just over 2.5 percent. Present value of total expected economic loss in the state for the remainder of the 21st century came in around $300 billion.

“The total revenue for schools pre-pandemic, although varying by state, averaged about 3.5 percent of state GDP,” explains Hanushek. “In other words, the continuing annual loss in GDP is over half of the annual school budgets, including all state, local, and federal funding.”

Loss in lifetime income from learning losses by state of schooling

Source: Eric Hanushek, The Economic Cost of the Pandemic: State by State, Stanford, CA: Hoover Institution, 2023.

Hanushek recapped these findings during an online event last week hosted by ExcelinEd that also included a virtual rollout of the 2022 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) math results, with a focus on the United States. Math achievement for American 15-year-olds has dropped since the test was last administered in 2018.

The triennial assessment of 15-year-olds around the world gauges “the extent to which they have acquired key knowledge and skills essential for full participation in social and economic life,” explains the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), who administers PISA. The assessment is not just about how well students have memorized formulas and equations that they have learned, but examines how well students can apply mathematical concepts, mathematical reasoning both in and outside of school, the OECD continues.

These 2022 test results are the first large-scale study with data since COVID-19, and, similar to other academic assessments, show unprecedented declines since 2018 — math scores down 15 points (3/4 of a year of learning) and reading scores down 10 points (half of a year of learning). Science scores were relatively unchanged. On average, boys outperformed girls in math by nine points. According to the OECD:

In two decades of PISA tests, the OECD average score has never changed by more than four points in mathematics or five points in reading between consecutive assessments. This is what makes 2022 PISA results so unique.

And while COVID-19 is an obvious contributing factor, continues the OECD, declines were evident before the pandemic, indicating that “longer-term issues are also at play.”

American students’ average math score dropped 13 points from the 2018 average (and was lower than the OECD average), and the U.S. ranks 28th among the 37 OECD member countries that participated. (The majority if OECD members are high-income economies regarded as developed countries.) The drop in American students’ reading and science scores (1 point and three points since 2018) was not statistically significant nor statistically different from the OECD average.

United States trends in math, reading, and science performance

: OECD, PISA 2022 Database, Tables I.B1.5.4, I.B1.5.5 and I.B1.5.6.

The test results can be a helpful tool in measuring the effectiveness of different policies across participating countries, noted Andreas Schleicher, director for education and skills at the OECD, during the ExcelinEd virtual event.

His data-rich presentation explored the relationship between spending and math scores and found that money is not a strong predictor for improved academic outcomes, “particularly not for countries like the U.S. that are on the high end of the spending distribution.”

“Countries like Korea and Singapore have demonstrated that it is possible to establish a top-tier education system even when starting from a relatively low-income level, by prioritizing the quality of teaching over the size of classes and funding mechanisms that align resources with needs,” writes Mathias Cormann, OECD secretary-general.

Schleicher also shared how education systems with more positive parental involvement saw stable or improved math performance, particularly among disadvantaged students. On the topic of digital devices and distractions, Schleicher noted that the only cell phone policy resulting in a statistically significant reduction in distractions during math lessons was a cell phone ban on school premises.

The countries with an average 2022 PISA math score higher than the United States include:

  1. Singapore
  2. Japan
  3. Korea
  4. Estonia
  5. Switzerland
  6. Canada*
  7. Netherlands*
  8. Ireland*
  9. Belgium
  10. Denmark*
  11. United Kingdom*
  12. Poland
  13. Austria
  14. Australia*
  15. Czech Republic
  16. Slovenia
  17. Finland
  18. Latvia*
  19. Sweden
  20. New Zealand*
  21. Lithuania
  22. Germany
  23. France
  24. Spain
  25. Hungary
  26. Portugal
  27. Italy
  28. Vietnam*
  29. Norway
  30. Malta
  31. United States*

*Note: According to the OECD, these countries did not meet one or more PISA sampling standards, such as target participation rates, which could impact their estimates.

United States, OECD average, and selected comparison countries; PISA 2022

(Comparison countries include the six highest-performing countries in each subject and the five countries with the largest population of 15-year-old students.)

Source: OECD, PISA 2022 Database, Tables I.B1.2.1, I.B1.2.2 and I.B1.2.3.

Thirteen countries had higher math scores in 2022 post-pandemic than they did going into the pandemic, but this was not the case for the United States. “We did not adjust well to the pandemic as some other countries did,” said Hanushek.

Focusing on high-impact tutoring, more rigorous curricular materials (for example, Singapore math), stronger parental partnerships and parental involvement in student learning, and limiting digital distractions are good strategies to start with to promote recovery.


Interested in some of the questions American 15-year-olds were asked on the PISA? Take a practice quiz here.