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Department of Education: Assessment test scores dropped during pandemic

(WILX)
Published: Aug. 31, 2021 at 11:39 AM EDT
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - It’s no secret the pandemic caused some disruption in learning during the last year and a half. Around every corner, students in all school districts were constantly wondering how or where they were going to be taught. This was all dependent on the state of COVID-19 in Michigan at that time. If cases rose, schools would send their students home to learn online, if cases declined, some schools would let students back in the classroom. This lead to confusion, and in turn a drop in test scores.

According to the Michigan Department of Education (MDE), student state assessment test scores from this spring dipped from the last time students were given statewide assessments in the spring of 2019. Last year, the state dropped the state assessment tests like the SAT due to the uncertainty of the pandemic.

“In spite of the extraordinary efforts of educators, support staff, school leaders, parents, the broader community, and students themselves, the disruption of the pandemic has inevitably resulted in unfinished learning for many of our children,” said State Superintendent Dr. Michael Rice.

The percentages of 8th and 11th grade students who scored proficient or above this year on the English language arts (ELA) PSAT and SAT tests improved over 2019, while the percentages of students who scored proficient or above in ELA, math, and social studies in all other grades declined, according to the Department of Education.

Dr. Rice noted that precise comparisons to any previous years’ scores would be difficult. Students did not take the M-STEP in the 2020 school year, and the percentages of students who took the ELA and math M-STEP tests this year ranged by grade and subject from 64 to 72 percent.

“The 2020-21 school year was such an uneven year with high health risks for students and staff, inconsistent technology, and variations in teaching and learning across the state,” Dr. Rice said. “Any analysis of M-STEP results must factor in low participation rates in state testing.”

State officials requested that the U.S. Department of Education waive the statewide M-STEP assessments for the second straight year. It was denied by the U.S. Department of Education (USED). As such, the M-STEP was required to be administered by local school districts, but was optional for students to take depending on parents’ beliefs about how safe it was to come into school to take the assessment.

Students who took the state assessments were more likely to be from districts that offered in-person or hybrid learning and less likely to be students of color, economically disadvantaged students, or English learners, according to MDE.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer and the Michigan state legislature negotiated over $6 billion in state and federal funds appropriated to provide local school districts with resources to help Michigan’s students, teachers, and families begin to rebound from the pandemic through local efforts of:

  • expanded learning opportunities over the summer;
  • additional learning time this school year;
  • increased access to early education for more children through the Great Start Readiness Program (GSRP);
  • additional literacy and math supports;
  • expansion of social and emotional learning and children’s mental health supports with additional funding to hire more school counselors, social workers, psychologists, and nurses, and professional development for teachers and support staff in social emotional learning;
  • smaller class sizes, particularly at the lower grade levels;
  • improved environmental conditions in schools; and
  • higher educator salaries, particularly in the beginning years of the profession.

To learn more about this year’s test results, click here.

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