Elementary, high school and high school students in Missouri did worse in all subjects and on grade level tests during the coronavirus pandemic, according to data released Tuesday.
About 45% of public school students achieved at least an English proficiency in the 2020-21 school year, according to results provided by the state’s Department of Primary and Secondary Education. That’s down from the nearly 49 percent of students who tested well the previous school year.
Students performed worse in math and science, with math scores falling from about 42% of students at the grade level in 2019 to 35% last year. In science, test scores have dropped from 42 percent proficiency to 37 percent proficiency.
The state’s education department will not release district and school-level data until the end of the year.
The purpose of these exams, according to DESE, is to “test student progress toward mastery of Missouri Show-Me standards.”
School administrators, including the state’s top education official, asked to understand in light of the many challenges teachers and students faced during the COVID-19 pandemic, including stress and long absences due to illness or quarantine.
“Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, most aspects of last school year were not typical,” Missouri Education Commissioner Margie Vandeven said in a statement. “I urge stakeholders to use this data to learn from this experience and explain how to deploy resources to best support students, educators and schools. “
Just over half of the students tested last year were learning in person, according to data from the education department. Another 10 percent learned exclusively online and 31 percent were taught through a mixture of the two ways.
About 80 percent of students had access to the Internet.
Analysis by the education department found that students performed higher when they learned in school. Students who learned online performed better when they had access to the Internet and a device.
Concerns that disparities in quarantines, internet connectivity, the use of substitute teachers, changed schedules and other complications skew test scores have been proven to be true.
St. Clair Superintendent Kyle Kruse said some state administrators advocated not administering the Missouri Assessment Program, or MAP, tests last year because of these concerns.
But Kruse said it’s important to know how much student learning has been affected, even if the results are overwhelmingly negative.
“We have to keep the score,” he said, “even if the score does not go our way.”
Maranda Anderson, assistant superintendent and director of curriculum for the Washington School District, said the tests typically provide a little insight into how students, teachers and programs fare over time. She says educators across the country will see a drop in standardized test scores because education has been disrupted so much.
“Teachers are well versed in adjusting instruction with their formative assessments throughout the day while seeing how children interact and what adjustments they need to make to ensure children understand. And you can’t do it virtually to the same extent, ”she said.
Missouri School Boards Association executive director Melissa Randol agreed, writing in a statement that teachers “have done a fantastic job under the circumstances of this pandemic.”
“We cannot lose sight of this,” she said.
Anderson said the scores will also be useful in determining which COVID-19 mitigation strategies have affected learning the most.
“I think those scores will give us some insight into… she said.
Washington will also compare its data with that of other schools in the region, as well as with state data, “just to make sure we stay on track,” Anderson said.
State education officials have already ruled that last year’s test results will not be used against schools for liability purposes due to the unusual circumstances of the pandemic.