Schools work to support students suffering from pandemic learning loss

State test scores from the past two years show the pandemic put children behind on key learning benchmarks leaving behind a learning gap that districts are now working to close.

Ed Source recently requested state data from 10 of the largest districts which showed sharp declines in all grade levels from 2019, before COVID forced schools to close and students shifted to distance learning.

One of the Bay Area’s largest districts, Mt. Diablo Unified, saw low test scores in reading and math compared to pre-pandemic data. The results show 55% of students did not meet the standards for English language arts and 65% did not meet the standards for math. MDUSD Superintendent Adam Clark acknowledged that the district needs to do better.

"I’m not surprised there were dips because of the effects of the pandemic affected different communities at different levels," he said.

The data also showed underserved communities were hit hardest, with students of color testing lower, along with homeless and foster youth.

Clark noted that standardized test scores are not everything and he pointed to other things like social emotional learning. Still, he said the district has a plan in place this year to gets students to where they need to be.

"Let’s say you were in third grade and you missed most of third grade… We’re not going back and re-teaching third grade," Clark said. "The research has shown that we now start at fourth grade where the student is now and we accelerate that learning."

 MDUSD has incorporated more technology for students and is in the process of updating curriculum. Clark also said the district has its own local assessment in which is measures students’ success.

 "We are not trying to overwhelm our educators or our students with new initiatives," he said. ""We’re moving forward instead of going backward and that’s really what we have to do."

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 According to Ed Source, the state results show consistent declines in all categories from 2019, but some variations among districts and subgroups:

·        Only 13% of students in Bakersfield met the state standard for math.

·        Reading scores in Los Angeles Unified only dipped slightly from 2019 to 2022. Still, only 41% of students in 2022 were proficient in reading.

·        Math scores in Fresno dropped by a third. In 2022, only 21% of students met the math standard.

·        Reading scores in Long Beach dropped 11 points, but declines were less steep in math. Math scores fell only 4 points. 

·        In Mt. Diablo Unified, one of the few districts to break down the results by subgroup, Black, Latino, English learner, foster and homeless students had far lower scores compared with 2019 than their white and Asian peers. For example, among English learners, 96% did not meet the math or reading standards.