Amid Ominous Signs, California Releases First Student Test Scores Since the Pandemic

Today Californians get their first statewide look at test scores measuring the toll the pandemic took on students — and the way state education officials have handled the rollout provides plenty of clues that the news won’t be good.

Earlier this fall the state Education Department refused a media request to immediately release the scores, saying it would do so by the end of 2022. That fueled speculation that the agency’s head, Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond, was delaying the release until after his November re-election bid. Eventually the department reversed course and agreed to release the data.

But it did so in a way guaranteed to complicate coverage. Reporters received the data Sunday morning, under a news embargo until 10 a.m. today. Typically, they use that embargo time to interview district officials and education experts — so releasing test score data when those sources are unavailable hinders reporters’ ability to analyze and contextualize an important measurement of the pandemic’s impact on California’s public school students.

“I can’t read minds, but it does give the appearance of trying to conceal the data,” said David Loy, legal director of the First Amendment Coalition. “It’s not uncommon that government at all levels will release data or other news when it’s inconvenient for media.”

It’s also likely not a coincidence that the state results will be released to the public the same day scores on a different test, the National Assessment of Educational Progress, were unveiled just past midnight on the East Coast. That test, taken by a much smaller sample of California students, allows comparisons between all states — and showed an achievement drop in every single one.

But Gov. Gavin Newsom immediately issued a press release highlighting the fact that California students overall didn’t fare as poorly as those in most other states. Anyone hoping to divine how divergent state pandemic policies impacted academic achievement will find these national results confounding: California fared about the same as Florida and Texas, two states that rushed to return to in-person learning.

Not so California, where state officials deferred to local control. Citing health concerns, schools here generally continued remote learning long after students in many other states had returned to their classrooms. 

Unlike the national test, California’s Smarter Balanced tests are given to almost all students in grades three through eight and grade eleven every year. They measure whether students have mastered state standards for math and English language arts. The scores the state is releasing are for the 2021-22 school year, the first year that all students in the designated grades were required to take the tests since the start of the pandemic.

Click here to read the full article in CalMatters

LAUSD Student Test Scores Show Sharp Drops in English, Math Proficiency

Pointing to the COVID-19 pandemic as the driving factor, the Los Angeles Unified School District released test scores Friday showing sharp drop-offs in proficiency among students in nearly all grade levels in English and math.

According to the preliminary Smarter Balanced Assessments, the percent of LAUSD students meeting or exceeding state standards in English dropped by about two percentage points compared to the pre-pandemic 2018-19 year — falling from 43.9% to 41.7%. In math, the drop was steeper, falling by five percentage points from 33.5% to 28.5%.

“As anticipated, the preliminary state assessment results illustrate that there is no substitute for in-person instruction,” Superintendent Alberto M. Carvalho said in a statement. “Los Angeles Unified is proactively addressing the decline in achievement performance, particularly in English language arts and mathematics, at all grade levels.

“We are working collaboratively to accelerate and realize the learning potential of every student, bolstering important support systems including instructional, mental health and community supports to meet the needs of our students and realize our goals outlined in our 2022-2026 Strategic Plan.”

According to the figures, the percent of students meeting or exceeding the English standard fell in all grade levels except eighth grade, which saw slight increase. The biggest drop was in the 11th grade, which fell by 7 percentage points. Third-graders fell off by 4.5 percentage points and fourth- grades fell by about four points.

In math, every grade level saw a decrease, led by the 11th grade with a 9.7 point drop-off from 28.6% to 18.9%.

Eighth- and sixth-graders saw a nearly six-point drop.

“Los Angeles Unified has acted with urgency to ensure our students have the necessary supports to recover from the pandemic this year, and these results further underscore the need,” LAUSD Board of Education President Kelly Gonez said in a statement. “We have invested in strategies — from ensuring there’s a teacher in every classroom to summer school, tutoring and mental health supports — that will help us accelerate learning for all students, particularly our highest needs students who have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic.”

District officials said a variety of steps are included in the Strategic Plan to address learning loss from the pandemic, including the hiring of more teachers, providing additional training opportunities for teachers at the highest-need schools and using the test scores to guide “instructional planning and personalized learning so all students reach proficiency.”

Click here to read the full article at Fox11