California test scores decline; racial disparities remain

Most California students did not meet standards in math and English this year, state officials announced Monday in another example of test scores continuing to fall after the pandemic — including notable declines for Black and Latino children.

Two out of three California students did not meet state math standards, and more than half did not meet English standards, the Los Angeles Times reported. The numbers were worse for students of color, as 84% of Black students and 79% of Latino students did not meet math standards in 2022.

The test scores highlighted the widespread impacts of the pandemic, with traditionally underserved students facing the biggest challenges.

Math and reading scores have dropped significantly across the country since the pandemic. For California, the numbers underscore what was already troubling trend before the pandemic, when 60% of students were testing below grade level in math and nearly half in English.

"It is fair for people to be concerned about the experience that kids have had," California Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond told the newspaper in an interview. "But we also had 99,000 Californians who lost their lives to COVID. and we did the things that we felt we needed to do to save lives. ... Now is our time to focus on how we accelerate the students’ recovery."

State officials said the latest data contained some "hopeful signs." The Department of Education compared scores of students who took the tests in 2020-21 to those same students who took the tests this year and found "steeper-than-normal achievement gains at most grade levels."

Thurmond noted the state is phasing-in a plan to send all 4-year-olds to public school and also spent $250 million on things like reading coaches and other specialists.

Still, Republicans lamented the lack of progress, blaming Democrats who control state government.

"These test scores reflect the current state of education in California. We are failing students in the most important subjects," said James Gallagher, the Republican leader in the state Assembly. "This is just another example of Democrat mismanagement, and our kids are suffering for it."

Results of a national assessment showed setbacks for most of the country, including California. But California’s scores did not decline as much as the national average.

"While California’s students experienced less learning loss than those in most other states during the pandemic, these results are not a celebration but a call to action — students are struggling academically and we need to keep getting them the resources they need to thrive," California Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom said.