The results of standardized exams given to students in Missouri in the spring of 2021 – one year after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic – show that less than half of the students tested were at school level in science, reading and math.
Preliminary results for the 2020-21 year, released on Tuesday, showed that across all levels and content areas, 40% of students achieved proficient or advanced results, meaning they were on the right track. or ahead of school level expectations.
This was down from 45% for the year 2018-19 and 46% for the year 2017-18.
No state-mandated exams were given during 2019-2020. The pandemic reached Missouri in March 2020, closing school buildings for months and forcing districts to switch to virtual and alternative learning within days.
Education commissioner Margie Vandeven said the results in Missouri reflect what happened nationally and should be seen in context.
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She said teachers, families and schools have faced unprecedented disruption over the past 18 months as well as stressors, health issues and changes in the way teaching and learning took place.
“Teachers and students were absent for long periods of time due to illness and quarantine. Teachers and students were experiencing unprecedented stress, fatigue and mental health issues,” she said.
“Students often learned throughout the year in new and changing modes of instruction, be it face-to-face, hybrid, or entirely remote and sometimes technology and a less than reliable Internet connection played that.”
Missouri Student Achievement in English, Science and Math
The state tests students in reading and math in Grades 3 through 8 annually, and end-of-course exams are administered for some key high school courses. The state has also tested science students.
Overall, 45 percent of students tested last year scored at or above grade level in English, compared to 37 percent for science and 35 percent for math.
Another breakdown shows the percentage by grade level for grades 3-8 and for final exams.
For Grades 3 to 8: 43.7% passed in English, 34.9% in mathematics and 38.7% in science.
For end-of-course exams: 55.2% for English language arts, 36.9% for mathematics, 33.9% for science.
In a media call on Monday, ahead of Tuesday’s post, public education officials acknowledged the following:
- The percentage of students who scored at or above grade level last year was lower than the last time the exams were given, the year before the pandemic;
- The decline was greater for elementary school students than for secondary school students;
- The decline was greater for mathematics than for the sciences or arts of the English language;
- The largest drop was recorded in the percentage of students who obtained the grade in Algebra I, an end-of-course exam;
- The smallest decline for English language arts was Grades 4 and 8 and for Mathematics, Grades 8;
- Last year, the percentage of students with grades at or above grade level increased in the English I and Physical Sciences leaving exams.
The state provided detailed state-level data for reading and math, disaggregated by grade level or upon completion and by student demographic groups. He showed that the achievement gaps that existed before the pandemic were relatively unchanged.
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Education commissioner says state test results provide valuable insight
Vandeven said making “general comparisons” with test results before the pandemic, without taking into account all the variables, is irresponsible.
No school or district will be penalized for last year’s test scores. Vandeven said they will, however, be used to determine where more help is needed.
“The reality is, we knew we would see some form of impact. That’s why we say, ‘Let’s take some of the judgment out of the impact and turn on that flashlight to say what we’re doing about it. “” she said. . “The fact that it has diminished, we expected that, to be frank.”
She said the test results should provide valuable information.
The state collected data last year on how students learned – in person, virtually, or in combination – and is researching, with help from the University of Missouri, how that and internet access had an impact on student success.
Data collected during the tests showed that 81% of students had access to a laptop or other technology during the school year and 78% had access to the Internet.
For those tested, 51 percent learned in person last year, 10 percent learned virtually, 8 percent learned offsite with some virtual instruction, and 31 percent learned through a mixture of in-person and virtual options.
Preliminary test results showed that students who learned in person, full-time, or in a hybrid model, tended to do better on exams than students who learned offsite and virtually.
“Like many other industries across the state and across the country, we are at a time when we can reinvent education,” she said. “Careful examination of this data will help inform new ways of doing business. “
Lisa Sireno, standards and assessment administrator for the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, said this was the first time the state had been able to review scores analyzed based on how which the students learned.
“We are studying these impacts,” she said. “It’s a little too early to tell the cause and effect.”
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State education officials have urged schools to use test results to identify students most affected by the pandemic upheaval.
Melissa Randol, executive director of the Missouri School Boards’ Association, said the findings reinforce what educators know about the importance of face-to-face interaction with students.
“Teaching in person makes a difference. And when you can’t teach in person, Internet access and adequate bandwidth make a difference,” she said in a statement. “Our teachers and students have done a fantastic job under the circumstances during this pandemic – we cannot lose sight of that. “
State-mandated exams were online, but they had to be taken at a school, proctored, like in previous years.
Fewer students were tested last year, but the number was higher than the state originally expected. The participation rate, typically 95% or more, was 90%.
In an update to the state Board of Education on Tuesday, Vandeven said the state and its students can recover from the decline.
“I don’t want to downplay that or in any way, shape or form seems to downplay that our scores have gone down because it’s important to all of us,” she said. “… It is serious for us to look at this and think about what we are seeing right now.”
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Vandeven said the turnaround begins with schools and districts studying their individual scores – which will be released later this fall – and partnering with families to meet the specific needs of students.
Federal relief funds are available to help schools redouble their response and teaching efforts and to add support to help students catch up.
“What I think this advice can do, if all of you are willing and it looks like you absolutely are, is keep talking about the high expectations, sticking to them, talking about… that we need to. improve, “she said.
“Our children need to be able to come to the table prepared to be successful.”
Claudette Riley is the News-Leader educational journalist. Email tips to [email protected]