Pandemic-era test scores show students’ math and English skills decline

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The math and English skills of Nevada students have plummeted since the start of the pandemic – reflecting and in some cases exceeding downward national trends, according to standardized testing data released by the Department of Education on Thursday. from Nevada.

The test results offer insight into how COVID-19-related learning disruptions have affected students academically, though officials caution against over-reading the data as the turnout was low. significantly lower than in previous years. Due to federal waivers, only 68 percent of students in grades three through eight took Smarter Balanced assessments last spring.

The Clark County School District weighed on turnout statewide, as only 54% of its students in applicable classes took the tests. Participation rates for the other districts ranged from 84.2 percent to 98.1 percent.

Despite this, the results of the students who participated paint a dismal picture of how the learning changes forced by the pandemic have affected their education. For example:

  • Only 41.4% of Nevada students in Grades 3 through 8 earned a master’s degree in English Language Arts (ELA), up from 48.5% in the 2018-19 school year.
  • Just over a quarter (26.3%) of Nevada’s third through eighth graders achieved strong math scores, a double-digit drop from 37.5% for the school year 2018-2019.

Declines in ELA and math skills were more pronounced among elementary school students.

Nationally, the ELA proficiency rate fell 5 to 6 percentile points for elementary school students, but the declines were even more pronounced in Nevada (10 to 11 percentile points). A similar trend occurred with math proficiency rates: the national drop for elementary school students was 11 to 12 percentile points, while in Nevada the drop was 15 to 19 percentile points.

State education officials, however, pointed out that Nevada’s declines would be in line with national trends if the Clark County School District scores were excluded. The Clark County school district – the largest in Nevada and the fifth in the country – operated in distance education mode for nearly a year, before gradually bringing students back last spring.

Clark County Superintendent Jesus Jara released a statement Thursday afternoon, noting that “these test results show us how important it is for children to be in classrooms to learn from teachers with their peers “.

But Jara also went further and questioned the need for statewide assessments.

“The CCSD, the state and the nation must assess the value of these summative assessments and whether they meet the needs of our students and their academic success,” he wrote. “Assessment data should be readily available to our dedicated teachers in order to improve instruction and increase student achievement. “

The test data also revealed persistent gaps in opportunity among various student groups, with white and Asian American students showing significantly higher proficiency rates than their Black, Latino, Native American or Alaskan Native peers.

Almost 34% of white students and half of Asian American students achieved strong math scores in college, compared to 9.4% of black students, 14.9% of Latino students, and 10.8% of students Native Americans or Alaska Natives. Similar differences occurred among groups of students on elementary math tests and elementary and middle school ELA tests.

Proficiency rates among students learning English as a second language were also pale compared to state averages. For example, only 2% of students learning English as a second language were rated proficient in math in college, compared with almost 24% of students in those classes statewide.

“I am grateful to administrators and educators across the state who have persevered in providing high quality learning opportunities for students,” State Superintendent Jhone Ebert said in a statement. “However, we cannot be satisfied until every child has the equitable access and support they need to demonstrate their skills, no matter who they are or where they attend school.”

The CADS assessment data will not be used for school accountability assessments, which will remain the same as of the 2018-2019 data collection year. Students did not take the SBAC tests in the 2019-2020 school year due to closures related to the pandemic and the pivot to distance education that spring. The U.S. Department of Education waived testing requirements in March 2020, a time marked by challenges simply connecting students to distance learning amid building closures.

State education officials have stressed that incoming federal funds will be mobilized to help students overcome academic failure, which the Assessment center, could be several times greater than the effect of Hurricane Katrina on Louisiana students.

All Nevada school districts have resumed full-time in-person teaching this year, although the emergence of the Delta variant has created disruption for students and staff due to quarantines or temporary school closures.

This story was updated at 4 p.m. on September 16, 2021, to include a statement from the Clark County School District.


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