CHCCS English test scores drop 30.3% from pre-pandemic years
Students at Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools underperformed state assessments in all areas during the 2020-21 school year, according to recently released data.
Last year, only 61.8 percent of students who tested were proficient in their year-end and end-of-course assessments. This represents a 13.7% drop from the 2018-19 school year, when 75.5% of students met state proficiency standards.
“We know we have some pretty big and glaring gaps,” said CHCCS Superintendent Nyah Hamlett. “Our children don’t have time for us to congratulate ourselves.
The CHCCS switched to online courses due to COVID-19 in March 2020. Since then, students have gone through phases of distance and hybrid learning.
Diane Villwock, executive director of evaluation and research at CHCCS, said it was difficult to replicate the learning environment students were used to before the pandemic.
“If you look at a typical school year and how much instruction is face to face with the students interacting with each other and the materials and the teacher, we couldn’t get close to that last year,” Villwock said.
Due to the pandemic, school administrators changed the way testing was done. Villwock said students must take in-person tests and follow COVID-19 safety procedures, such as mask wear, social distancing and temperature checks.
State and federal governments have waived the normal accountability requirements associated with standardized tests that are used to measure and assess academic performance.
In a typical year, school districts must test at least 95 percent of their students, but only 75 percent of CHCCS students were tested last year.
Villwock said the data, while useful, cannot be fully used to make decisions in the future. She said using the latest data available before COVID-19 in conjunction with this recent information would provide a more complete view of the situation.
“We don’t know what caused all of the changes and we haven’t tested all of the children,” she said. “So when we compare that to ’18 -’19, and we know the instruction was different, we have to be very careful not to rely too much on that comparison. These are not apples for apples.
English language learners
English language learners experienced one of the most dramatic drops in scores. Their scores fell from 43.8% in English proficiency standards in 2018-19 to 37.4% in 2019-2020.
For the 2020-21 school year, 13.5% of English language learners achieved English proficiency standards.
The tests that English language learners take are the WIDA ACCESS tests. These assessments are divided into four parts: listening, speaking, writing and reading. They are scored individually, weighted and combined into composite scores.
This structure may have contributed to the lower scores, as some students were not able to complete all sections on time, said Helen Atkins, CHCCS Program Coordinator for English Language Learners. Students only had one day for testing, when it would normally have lasted more than two days, she said.
“If you miss an area – if you have a kid who takes maybe three games and doesn’t take the fourth part – we don’t get the composite score,” Atkins said. “If you don’t get the composite score, that child is not counted as making progress.”
Atkins said WIDA assessments are designed to use more academic language and their content is similar to other standardized tests.
Gina Bacheler, the lead teacher for English learners at CHCCS, said students were exposed to more languages - in the classroom and in social settings – before lessons moved online.
“Linguists have proven that a student will learn their social language first and their academic language comes next,” Bacheler said. “It’s a test that shows how they would do in an academic setting, not on the playground.”
Over the past year, the English Language Learners Department at CHCCS has implemented new programs including webinars, live Facebook broadcasts, and translation services to help reach students and families despite the constraints. of the pandemic.
“Even though the test results did not really show the growth, I feel that the capacity of families and their willingness to come and the growth of the relationship between our office and our families has increased significantly,” said Bacheler. “We really, really, really hope that the growth of our relationship will transfer to the classroom.”
Hamlett said the district’s state of mind was not to revert to its pre-pandemic test scores, but to exceed them.
“I know it’s a huge achievement and it’s a pretty tough job ahead of us,” Hamlett said. “But our students, our children and our families don’t have time to wait.”
A more comprehensive report on the results of the CHCCS tests will be made available to the Education Council on November 4, Villwock said in an email.