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Pandemic had negative impact on test scores for all students in NC, new DPI report finds

standardized_test.jpg
Nchole Yeo
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Flickr

The State Board of Education heard a long awaited report today on learning loss in North Carolina that resulted from the pandemic.

Researchers at the Department of Public Instruction found the pandemic had a negative impact on state test scores for all groups of students, in all grades and in nearly every subject.

In September 2021, the state board of education heard a report that fewer than half of students met grade-level benchmarks on recent state tests; this new report goes further by quantifying how students performed compared to their expected annual progress.

“This analysis is the first of its kind in the state,” said Michael Maher, director of DPI’s Office of Learning Recovery. “It's one of the first nationally.”

The study uses longitudinal statewide data to compare how students were expected to perform on state tests, to how they actually did in 2021. North Carolina is uniquely positioned to do this kind of study because the state regularly tracks individual student progress through a partnership with SAS.

The General Assembly passed a law in 2021 requiring the Department of Public Instruction to submit a report on the overall educational impacts of COVID-19 to the joint legislative education oversight committee. The draft report is now publicly available for viewing.

Pandemic students graphic
Elizabeth Schlemmer
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State Board of Education member Jill Camnitz said when she first received a copy of the report, she felt like crying.

“It sort of confirms what you knew was coming, but seeing the reality is very painful,” Camnitz said. “But we have to just get past that, and let it inform the work that we're going to do.”

Maher said the data provides insights into how the state can target resources to help students recover from lost instructional time. The data will be made available to school districts.

The study found greater losses in math for grades 5-9 and for 8th grade science and high school biology. The only subject in which performance was not affected was in the high school course English 2.

Most students continued to progress during the pandemic, but at a slower pace than they were expected to based on their past performance.

Economically disadvantaged students saw the greatest losses. All subgroups of students, including students labeled as academically gifted, were negatively affected.

“The pandemic, and the resulting disruptions in student learning are the cause of what we see here presented in these charts,” Maher said.

“This is not on the backs of teachers, principals, superintendents,” Maher said. “There is nothing any of them could have done in the height of this pandemic to change these results.”

Maher said he and his colleagues at the Office of Learning Recovery will continue to present the board with similar reports in the years to come to track students’ recovery.

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