Missouri education commissioner explains next step after test scores drop

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – The effect of the pandemic on Missouri students has resulted in lower test scores across all subjects and grade levels.

It is no surprise to the Department of Primary and Secondary Education (DESE) that the pandemic has affected student learning.

Standardized test results show that Missouri students who attended school in person last year performed better than those who were virtual. Overall, math was the most affected submission.

“I actually thought it could have been a lot worse,” DESE Commissioner Margie Vandeven told our chief Missouri Capitol Bureau reporter Emily Manley.

“I’ll tell you, we have a lot of work to do and that single data point doesn’t tell the whole story.”

From in-person learning to virtual and hybrid classrooms, the past 18 months have been anything but normal for students and teachers.

“There was a bigger impact in our first students than in high school,” Vandeven said. These are not your typical one-year results. It really is the reflection of two school years.

Schools in Missouri closed in the spring of 2020, which means standardized testing has not taken place. Some schools reopened for in-person learning in fall 2020 while others went virtual or offered blended learning.

“We always wanted to give these tests because we think we need this data to understand, but it was more about not being judgmental and making high-stakes decisions about what we need to change in the program. “said Vandeven.

Last spring, 90% of students in K-12 public schools in Missouri took the test. This percentage is lower than in previous years. Vandeven said she was prepared for the worst.

“Why we talked about not comparing is that the conditions were so different and even in our schools that went back full time in person, they had students who were in quarantine, they had teachers who were in quarantine or sick, ”Vandeven said.

Tests show that only 45% of students are fluent or advanced in English, losing four points from 2019. Students lost seven points in math, the largest drop from 42% to 35%.

And in science, 37% were found to be proficient or advanced in 2021, up from 42% in 2019. Elementary students decline the most, and the biggest drop in learning has been algebra 1.

The smallest decline was recorded in English in fourth and eighth grades and in mathematics in eighth grade.

“We must have high expectations, we must always help our children, but understand that this has been a disruptive time,” said Vandeven.

“They will catch up; they will be able to acquire these skills, it might take a little longer than what we were used to before.

Data on test results then shows that every ethnicity has felt the effects of the pandemic. Asian students consistently outperformed other ethnicities with a mastery rate of 56%, while black students struggled the most at 15%.

Vandeven said to get students back on track, parents need to consider tutoring and ask teachers what kind of help their child needs.

“Does basic learning even make more sense,” Vandeven said. “Are there ways for us to expressly explain to students how to go to the next level and then think about the skills that can be learned through the system. Really focus on what students need to know and be able to do in order to be successful.

Over the past two weeks, Vandeven said she had met with teachers across the state about the test results.

“A lot of them thought it reflected what they saw locally in terms of math and reading in particular,” Vandeven said. “But what they shared is that they can’t wait to be there, our kids are happy to be back.”

Due to the pandemic, this year’s test results have been removed from state and federal accountability systems. Vandeven said the federal government has not decided on the assessment tests for next spring.

She said schools in Missouri have received $ 2.9 billion from the US bailout, which can be used over the next three years.

“Significant investments have been made in our states and our schools to ensure that our doors can stay open, that our students are educated to the best of their ability,” said Vandeven.

“With the federal government making this kind of investment, I think it will want to see the results and see how our students are doing. “

Vandeven said all of Missouri’s public schools are back to in-person learning this year. Since the start of the school year, she said 10 districts have experienced some kind of temporary closure.

Compared to other states, Vandeven said Missouri had similar test scores with the greatest impact in math.


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Norma A. Roth