AUSTIN, Texas – The results of the first standardized tests taken in the United States during the pandemic offer an idea of how far students have fallen behind, with some states reporting that the school year has reversed years of academic progress.
Education authorities of Texas released an obscure report on Monday after the state became the first to release the full results of their spring exams.
The percentage of students reading at grade level fell to its lowest levels since 2017, while math scores plummeted to its lowest point since 2013. In all, an additional 800,000 students are now below grade level of their grade level in math, the state reported.
“The impact of the coronavirus on what school means and what school is has been really profound,” said Mike Morath, Texas commissioner of education. “It will take several years of change and support to help the guys catch up.”
Other states have shared progress reports with equally alarming results.
On Florida, officials said the results fell 4 percentage points compared to 2019, the last time the tests were administered at the state level. On Indiana, the authorities have warned a decline in reading scores and a “significant” decline in math.
Experts warn that low participation rates in some regions could leave them littered with unreliable data, and that even within some states, there were regions where many families chose not to participate. In Texas, 86% of students took the test this spring, compared to the usual 96%.
Still, the preliminary results offer some of the strongest data yet to detail the effects of school closings in March 2020, the shift to distance learning, and related shocks. In addition, they also fit with the trend observed in national studies over the last year: students lag behind in reading and even more in mathematics.
MINORITIES, EVEN MORE IMPACTED BY THE PANDEMIC
The setbacks are most evident among black students and those from low-income families. In all groups of students, those who spent more time with face-to-face learning had better results on tests.
“It’s sad to see how so many kids fell apart,” said Robin Lake, who runs the Center on Reinventing Public Education at the University of Washington. “Clearly, distance learning has affected the most vulnerable the most. We expected it, but it is still something difficult to see”.
Morath said the results highlight the need to return to strong face-to-face teaching this fall. In districts with many students in online classes, the proportion of those not meeting standards in math rose 32%. In districts with more face-to-face learning, the rate went up 9%.
That gap was larger than those between students on the basis of race or income, but the data also showed that white students scored better than their black and Hispanic peers and students from higher-income families outperformed their peers poor families.
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