U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona issued a statement Monday calling the literacy and math results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress “unacceptable,” noting the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on students.
The assessment is a demonstration of the Biden administration’s continued efforts to get schools to return to in-person instruction; it also indicates the extent of academic recovery still necessary due to the effects of the pandemic.
“I think it is fair to say that students at the elementary, secondary, and postsecondary levels were learning in unprecedented and challenging conditions,” said Tolani Britton, assistant professor at the UC Berkeley School of Education, in an email. “In some ways, the fact that students learned under these conditions is incredible.”
Berkeley Unified School District, or BUSD, also released localized data on student performance using results from the Smarter Balanced Summative Assessments during a meeting Wednesday.
Overall, learning loss due to the pandemic was minimally represented in pre- and post-pandemic assessments at the elementary school level as the overall percentage of students who met or exceeded standards increased, according to data shared at a BUSD meeting.
Secondary students, however, were noted as having experienced a slight decline in their English language arts performance, with 11th grade proficiency rates reflecting this trend.
BUSD Superintendent Enikia Ford Morthel noted during the meeting that variance persists in the performance of Black students, Latine students and students of other racial and ethnic subgroups, a variance she added has become too predictable in BUSD and other districts across the state.
Students in programs such as special education and socioeconomically disadvantaged students experienced significant drops in their performance: lower than the district average, according to the data.
“As we call out our bright spots and we look for practices that are promising, we are also trying to understand why and how certain subgroups are not able to access the rigorous learning BUSD is providing for them,” Ford Morthel said during the meeting.
It was also noted that Smarter Balanced Summative Assessment performance in math remained markedly lower than English performance for those in elementary school and lower than pre-pandemic math performance levels for those in middle and high school, according to the meeting data.
Based on this data, Ford Morthel noted that conversations with site leaders and their educators have begun in order to coordinate the next steps for ensuring quality learning in both teaching and support programs.
“This once-in-a-generation virus upended our country in so many ways — and our students cannot be the ones who sacrifice most now or in the long run,” Cardona said in a statement. “We must treat the task of catching our children up in reading and math with the urgency this moment demands.”