WASHINGTON (WNCN) — Students in North Carolina are testing at levels lower than what was saw before the COVID pandemic, but they’re not alone. It’s a nationwide trend detailed in the National Center for Education Statistics’ annual report.

“I’m not surprised, I think we knew this was going to happen after a pandemic that affected students, teachers, and families,” Christina Spears, president of the Wake County chapter of the North Carolina Association of Educators, said.

That’s how many education advocates feel after seeing the report, detailing how student learning was impacted during the pandemic.

“There are needs that are not getting met, and students are not performing, as demonstrated in these standardized test scores,” Spears said.

Here in North Carolina, 39% of fourth-graders scored below basic in reading levels. For eighth-grade students, it was 34%. In math, 25% of fourth-graders scored below basic. That’s the highest that level has been since 2000.

Those numbers are right on track with what students are scoring nationally. In order to make those test scores trend upward again, education advocates say the state needs to act.

“We think paying teachers for their experience is one way to improve student growth and proficiency in those test scores,” Spears said.

And while it won’t be a quick fix, advocates say students deserve investments in their futures.

“This is not going to be an overnight or even a one or two year fix,” Keith Poston, with the WakeEd Partnership, said. “But at some point, we have got to reckon with a lot more resources and support that our students need through our public school system, and it’s time that we get serious about it.”