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Education

Fewer Than Half Of NC Students Passed Statewide Exams For Reading or Math This Spring

Female student in high school math class
Allison Shelley
/
EDUimages / All4Ed
A student listens to a math lesson from behind a protection shield at a socially distanced desk. The percentage of students who were considered "proficient" on North Carolina end-of-grade exams dropped for every grade level and in every subject between spring 2019 and spring 2020.

Fewer than half of North Carolina public school students in grades 3 through 8 tested at their grade level in either math or reading on statewide exams this past spring.

The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction released data today from the spring 2021 end-of-grade exams.

After the global coronavirus pandemic has disrupted more than a year of school — with a mix of online and in-person learning, quarantines, and lost class time — the test results show how far students will have to go to catch up to typical test scores of years past.

eog reading.JPG
NC DPI State Board of Education materials
The upper graph shows a comparison of the percentage of students who met a level considered "college and career ready" on their end-of-grade reading exams between spring 2019 and spring 2021. The lower graph shows a comparison of the percentage of students who were considered "proficient" on their end-of-grade reading exams, in other words, those who achieved a passing grade on the exam.

The percentage of students who were considered "proficient" on the exams dropped for every grade level and in every subject between spring 2019 and spring 2020.

Tammy Howard, head of accountability at the Department of Public Instruction, presented the data to the North Carolina State Board of Education and said the context around those numbers is critical.

"Any generalized comparison to previous results should be made within the context of all the uniqueness of the 2020-21 school year," Howard said.

eog math.JPG
NDPI State Board of Education materials
The upper graph shows a comparison of the percentage of students who met a level considered "college and career ready" on their end-of-grade math exams between spring 2019 and spring 2021. The lower graph shows a comparison of the percentage of students who were considered "proficient" on their math end-of-grade exams, in other words, those who achieved a passing grade on the exam.

This year, the federal and state government have waived consequences schools would usually face for receiving low test scores — including pausing the practice of assigning schools a letter grade.

Governor Roy Cooper signed Senate Bill 654 on Monday to temporarily waive a state law that requires the State Board of Education to calculate letter grades for schools and display them publicly.

The U.S. Department of Education waived most federal school accountability measures over the past two school years but required schools to administer their statewide exams in spring 2021. Those test scores represent the first time students have taken their end-of-grade exams in two years since the onset of the pandemic.

"We all know what we've lived through during the pandemic," said 2021 Superintendent of the Year Brent Williams of Lenoir County Public Schools, thanking Howard for putting the decline in scores in the context of the pandemic.

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