California test results show deep pandemic declines; the worst math

Two out of three California students failed to meet state math standards and more than half failed to meet English standards on state assessments taken in the spring, reflecting significant drops in performance from the year before the pandemic, when large numbers of students were already struggling. to meet grade level expectations.

The test scores are even more devastating for Black, Latino, low-income, and other historically underserved students — 84% of Black students and 79% of Latino and low-income students failed to meet the math standards of state in 2022.

The dismal results provide further evidence of the profound challenges facing California schools as educators focus on helping children recover from the deep setbacks of the pandemic with multi-billion dollar investments in public education. . The scores also amplified the troubling fact that even before the pandemic, 60% of California students were testing below grade level in math and nearly half in English.

In 2022, 53% of students did not meet grade level expectations in English/literacy. For black students, 70% did not meet the standards, for Latinos it was 64%, and for low-income students it was 65%.

In English and math, the percentage of students who did not meet expectations increased in many demographic groups compared to the year before the pandemic.

For example, in the 2018-19 school year, about 46 percent of white students failed to meet state math standards. In the 2021-22 school year, 52% did not meet the standards. For Asian students, 26% did not meet math standards before the pandemic. In the 2021-22 school year, it was 31%.

The data suggests widespread impacts of the pandemic on many groups of students. They also show that traditionally underserved students face enormous academic recovery challenges.

Sixteen percent of black students met state standards on the math test, up from 21 percent in 2019, and 30 percent met standards on the English language arts, up from 33 percent in 2019.

For Latinos, 21% met math test standards, up from 28% in 2019; and 36% met standards in English, compared to 41% in 2019.

California’s results were released just hours after the “national report card” was released on Sunday evening. The national assessment – ​​which is different from the California test – also showed significant drops in math and reading scores across the majority of the country. Eighth graders in nearly every state and fourth graders in a vast majority of states, including California, have seen their average math scores drop since the pandemic in what the Secretary of Education, Miguel Cardona, called it “heartbreaking” academic setbacks.

“The pre-pandemic data did not reflect an education system that was on track,” Cardona said. “The pandemic has only made things worse. This took poor performance and brought it down again.

Addressing the national situation, Beverly Perdue, Chair of the National Assessment Board, said, “We are talking about a very serious erosion of children’s literacy and numeracy skills in the next generation. of manpower… And so it becomes a global economic problem for America.

The national test results were less dire for California than some experts had feared. Scores fell in math but remained stable in reading. However, they do not reflect the good results of the pupils. Before the pandemic, the state was underperforming national averages in reading and math.

And the national test results mean that only about 30% of eighth graders in California have achieved reading fluency. About 23% have achieved proficiency in mathematics.

The national tests – administered to a sample of fourth and eighth grade students in early 2022 – measure the performance of students across the country in reading and math based on frameworks developed by the National Board of Trustees of the evaluation. These tests allow comparisons between states.

Peggy Carr, commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics, said the results of the National Education Progress Assessment do not provide clear answers on how time spent in virtual classrooms affected student performance.

“There is nothing in this data to indicate that we can draw a straight line between time spent in remote learning per se and student achievement,” she said.

The decline in math scores has been particularly steep and widespread, especially for eighth graders, a year that is a crucial stepping stone to higher-level math. In California, where the vast majority of schools were closed until the spring of 2021, scores fell six points. In Texas and Florida – where schools opened earlier – scores fell seven points, and in Oklahoma, where schools also started earlier, they fell 13 points.

“We have a whole generation of students whose academic careers have been turned upside down,” Carr said. “So parents need to know that this is a serious problem here. This is not to be taken lightly. And they need to work with their schools and teachers to help their students. And it’s not good to go back to normal because normal wasn’t good for some of us, was it? »

The California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress is designed to assess whether students are meeting grade level standards established by the state Department of Education.

The tests are administered in the spring to all students in grades three through eight and eleven. A key difference is that the national tests focus specifically on reading comprehension while the California tests are more broadly focused on English language arts/literacy, which also includes writing, listening, and research/inquiry.

This was the first year since the 2018-19 school year that state assessments were fully administered. They were scrapped for the 2019-2020 academic year after campuses closed in March 2020. The following year was largely remote and less than a quarter of students took English tests and of mathematics.

State officials have struggled to put the test results into a broader context.

“It’s right that people are concerned about the experience of children,” said Supt. of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond said in an interview. “But we also had 99,000 Californians who lost their lives to COVID. And we did the things we thought we had to do to save lives…Now is the time to focus on how we accelerate student recovery.

Officials also pointed to what they called “signs of hope” in the data.

A Department for Education analysis comparing the performance of students who took the 2020-21 English and maths assessments to the performance of the same students in 2022 “showed higher than normal achievement gains at most grade levels,” state officials said in an interpretive guide presented with the results.

Thurmond pointed to recent state investments, including efforts to hire 10,000 more counselors and $4 billion for “community schools” — which aim to provide far-reaching assistance for what students and families need. need.

The state also has a phased plan to add a year of education by allowing all 4-year-olds to enroll in public school and it is providing $250 million for literacy, money that can pay reading coaches and other specialists.

Thurmond pointed to tutoring programs, longer school days, and longer school years as well-documented methods to help accelerate student learning.

Funds are available for such efforts in the short to medium term, but districts have struggled to hire the necessary staff and implement recovery plans.

LA Unified struggled to secure tutoring services for students and was unable to overcome resistance to an extended school year.


Los Angeles Times

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