In a powerful indication of how students have suffered academically during the COVID pandemic, test scores have plummeted across the country in math and dropped significantly in reading in 2022, and California students have also fared dramatically worse this year on the state’s standardized test, according to two sets of results released Monday that amplify the debate about the impact of remote learning.
The National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP, known as the National Report Card because it’s the only test taken in every state, saw the biggest drop ever in math scores. Compared to 2019, the last time the exam was administered, math scores fell 8 points in eighth grade and 5 points in fourth, the two years taking the test. And both ratings lost 3 points in reading, also found to be statistically significant.
In the California test known as Smarter Balanced, less than half of students met the state standard for English language arts – a drop of 4 percentage points to 47.1% from to the 2018-19 pre-pandemic period, when testing was last required statewide. And only a third of students reached the standard level in mathematics, a drop of 6.5 percentage points.
“It’s a massive decline,” said Heather J. Hough, executive director of policy analysis for PACE, or Policy Analysis for California Education, an independent, nonpartisan research center run by faculty directors at the University. Stanford University, University of Southern California and University of California.
“We’ve never seen anything like it,” Hough said. “It is an unprecedented challenge that we must face. This really should provide a call to action and cause for alarm.
California skipped the Smarter Balanced assessment — which is given to all 3rd, 8th, and 11th graders — statewide for two years of COVID-19. The state canceled the test in the spring of 2020, when all schools closed and moved to remote learning, and made the statewide test optional in 2020-21.
This year’s results showed the alarming effects of the pandemic were widespread, with scores falling by roughly the same 5 to 7 percentage points among most racial and ethnic groups, wiping out six years of slow and steady progress since the introduction of Smarter Balanced in 2014-15. Disparities that affect ethnic groups remained significant, with 69.4% of Asian students scoring at or above the standard in 2022, more than triple the rate of Latino and Black students.
A Bay Area News Group analysis of Smarter Balanced results showed a county-wide increase in the number of students not meeting standards in Santa Clara, Alameda, Contra Costa, San Francisco, San Mateo and Marine.
Contra Costa County had more than 28% of students substandard in English and nearly 38% in math, the highest proportions among those counties.
A look at the 10 largest districts in the Bay Area showed that the number of students not meeting math standards has increased in each of them. For English language arts, most also saw increases, although Oakland Unified and East Side Union High School District in San Jose saw declines.
California followed the national pattern in math, but less so in reading in NAEP scores, which are assigned to about 110,000 students — including 4,000 in California — at more than 5,000 schools nationwide chosen to reflect income and diversity ethnic states. The national exam has been given for the past three decades.
In the national test in 2022, 31% of California students were at least proficient in fourth-grade reading and 30% were at least proficient in fourth-grade math.
Surprisingly, average scores in California, one of the last states to reopen, fell slightly less in math and reading than most states that required schools to reopen for in-person instruction in 2020-21. In some cases, the differences were significant.
For example, eighth-grade reading scores in Florida, whose governor has threatened to withhold state aid if a district does not reopen, fell 4 points, while scores in California were flat at 2019 to 2022. In eighth grade math, scores dropped 6 points in California. and 7 points in Florida and Texas.
Governor Gavin Newsom attributed California’s relatively better performance on the NAEP to the state’s record $23 billion investment in education, though it’s unclear how funding was a factor. . Calling the results “not a celebration but a call to action”, he said, “students are struggling academically and we need to continue to provide them with the resources they need to thrive.”
But Newsom’s Florida counterpart, Gov. Ron DeSantis, insisted Monday that keeping schools open was the right move. As a result, he said Florida students “had top rankings in the state in reading and math.”
Peggy Carr, commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics, the federal agency that administers the NAEP, cautioned against findings about how long schools are open during COVID.
“Nothing in this data tells us that there is a measurable difference in performance between states and districts based solely on how long schools are closed,” Carr said, adding that the length and quality of the distance learning were not measured.
District-level NAEP scores were only available for 26 large urban districts that participate in the assessment, which in California only includes the 2022 Los Angeles and San Diego Unified School Districts.
In a surprise, Los Angeles Unified, the state’s largest district, was the only one of those 26 U.S. urban districts to make a significant gain in eighth grade reading. His 9-point increase was unusually large and lifted his score above the average for other major districts for the first time since the district began taking the test in 2002.
Superintendent Alberto Carvalho attributed the increase in reading skills to greater attendance and engagement the district has seen in middle school during the pandemic compared to elementary and secondary schools. He also said extra support has helped put more students on the right track.
California Daily Newspapers