Preliminary statewide standardized test results released today show academic performance fell last school year for Missouri’s public school students. During today’s state Board of Education meeting, Deputy Commissioner Dr. Tracy Hinds said Missouri is not unique to the dip in statewide test results – schools around the country are experiencing similar issues.
The results represent data from the required Grade Level and End-of-Course (EOC) state assessments, which include English Language Arts and Mathematics for grades 3-8; Science for grades 5 and 8; and EOC exams in English II, Algebra I, and Biology. Results for optional EOC assessments were released as well, including in American History, Algebra I, English I, Geometry, and Physical Science.
Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) information shows 45% of students met grade level in English Language Arts, 35% in Math, and 37% in Science.
In the spring of 2019, the last time students were tested, 49% of students were proficient in English, 42% in math and 42% in science.
The largest drop was nearly 10% in Algebra I and the smallest declines were less than 2% in English, grades 4-8 and Math in grade 8. Rates increased in English I and Physical Science end-of-course assessments. Proficiency rates declined more in elementary than in middle school and in Math more than Science and English Language Arts.
Asian students continue to outperform other students and Black students continue to struggle the most.
The test participation rate exceeded 90% among Missouri’s roughly 900,000 K-12 public school students.
During a virtual press conference, K-12 State Education Commissioner, Dr. Margie Vandeven, says the initial results show student performance has been impacted by the pandemic.
“I definitely think we are still in a good position to say our students are well on track to be successful but we have some making up to do. While we are all familiar with the expression, ‘We are all in the same boat’, you probably have heard this expression about COVID-19, ‘We are all in the same motion, but not in the same boat.’ Meaning of course, that a global pandemic impacts each of us but in different ways,” she says.
Vandeven wants parents, students, educators and the rest of the public to consider our world over the past 18 months. She mentions statewide tests were canceled and schools closed their doors after COVID-19 hit Missouri in the spring of 2020. Once schools reopened in the fall of 2020, many teachers and students were playing catch up and were absent for extended periods of time due to illness and/or quarantine. The learning environment shifted throughout the year for many, whether that be in-person, virtual, or a combination of the two. Some dealt with technology problems while learning remotely. Vandeven says teachers and students also experienced unparallel stress, fatigue and mental health issues.
“Blanket comparisons to previous years’ assessment data that ignores this long list of variables would be a serious misuse of the data and absolutely not what we are working to do,” says Vandeven. “Students are more than test scores. However, we also know that statewide testing data can provide insight and help us see things we may not otherwise see. Now, there’s an old saying in the data world that data can serve as a flashlight – shedding light on circumstances and providing insight or as a hammer – the accountability tool. So this year, let’s focus on the flashlight.”
Vandeven says expectations for student learning remain high.
“As they should. As the pandemic is still with us, I ask all Missourians to come together to do everything we can to ensure our schools remain among the safest places for our children – so that our school doors can remain open for in-person learning and that our students can experience a school year with as minimal disruptions as possible in their schooling experience,” says Vandeven.
Melissa Randol, the Executive Director of the Missouri School Boards’ Association, says the scores reinforce what was already known.
“Teaching in person makes a difference. And when you can’t teach in person, access to the internet and adequate bandwidth make a difference. Our teachers and students did a fantastic job under the circumstances during this pandemic – we can’t lose sight of that. The MAP test is one factor we use to determine how best to meet our students’ needs. It’s very much like going to your physician’s office for a check-up. You have your temperature taken, your blood pressure measured and your weight and height checked. In isolation, these tests give your physician some information, but they are more useful when looked at together. The same is true for the MAP test, it is one measure that must be used in combination with other variables to determine how best to meet the needs of our students during these difficult times. We have learned a lot about how to help children during extended, traumatic experiences like we have lived through in 2020-21 and are continuing to experience in the 2021-22 school year and we are continuing to improve. I’ve never been more proud of Missouri’s educators. While all of this turmoil is occurring around them, they are staying laser-focused on helping our children. We could all learn a lesson about humanity from them,” says Randol.
How is the state going to work to boost performance?
Lisa Sireno, DESE’s Standards and Assessment Administrator, says research is ongoing to examine academic achievement. Other efforts include instructional resources, literacy initiatives, professional learning for district leaders, math and English consultants for educators and social-emotional learning resources.
Due to the pandemic’s effects on education, the Missouri Board of Education voted last year to suspend the use of these statewide test results from state and federal accountability systems – for funding and accreditation purposes.
As the pandemic continues to unfold, Vandeven says it is too early to tell whether DESE will request the Missouri Board of Education to make the same decision for next spring.
The state plans to release district and charter school results later this fall.
To view more details about the assessment results, click here.
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