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Spring school testing data shows learning drops across Ohio

Double-digit deficits in early grade math, reading
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Posted at 5:44 PM, Sep 07, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-09 09:42:06-04

CLEVELAND — The state Department of Education released results from Spring assessments - quantifying the learning loss from the pandemic. Because these tests were voluntary for some students, the number of tests given was fewer than previous years.

"It's an understatement to say it was a unique and challenging year," said Chris Woolard with the Department of Education.

New numbers from the state may be able to tell educators and parents something about how learning went during the first pandemic school year.

Search a database showing district test scores in 2019 vs. 2020 for local districts:

Click here to view the database on a separate page.

"We saw a lot of decreases and declines last year in English/Language Arts and, especially, in math," Woolard said about what the data showed.

Overall, fewer tests were given in 2021. In both 2018 and 2019, more than 2.5 million assessments were taken each year. But, in 2021, there was a drop of nearly 260,000 - or roughly 10% - because testing last Spring was voluntary for some students in the state.

"That being said, we still feel like we have ... a really, really, large amount of students participating," he said.

Charlies Smialek, the superintendent at Parma City Schools is an outspoken opponent of state level testing. "I never think that the altruistic motive of state testing being a check-in point is really accurate," he said Tuesday.

Smialek said his teachers do a better job of tracking student learning and progress. But, with the release of the 2021 testing data, he said the numbers solidify one thing.

"...This shows the value of in-person instruction," he said. "It shows that virtual instruction, while okay for a select few, is not the way that I think the majority of our students need to learn - and should learn."

The state testing result database shows proficiency rates in Parma did drop from 67% of students measuring in the "proficient and above" level in 2019 to just 43% in the same category six months ago. Parma learners are not alone. Statewide, there were double digit drops in 3rd grade reading and math and tests in several other grade levels.

"I think everybody did the best they possibly could in an extremely difficult situation but it underscores that we have to have systems in place that keep our students in school at all times," Smialek said.

He stressed these tests won't change much about how classrooms operate in his district. Smialek will rely on what teachers see in their classrooms.

But state education leaders like Woolard said, "those things should be working together. But, they are different data for different purposes."