Student test scores, graduation rates decline during pandemic

New data from the California Department of Education shows a decline in student test scores during the past year of the pandemic.

Enrollment also dropped to 6.1 million as more than 160,000 students left public schools.

Getting back to the classroom has been a boost to many students who say they struggled with online virtual classes during the pandemic.

"I wasn't learning," said Nicholas Dunwood, a 16-year-old Alameda resident who is a junior in high school, "But since we go back, I'm learning stuff now."

The California Department of Education released new data Friday showing that school districts and students are still struggling to make the grade.

Only 25% of K-12 students took the standardized tests for the 2020-2021 year.

Performance dropped in English and language arts where just 49% of students met or exceeded the state standards.

In math less than 34% met the state standards and in science less than 30% of students met state standards.

Charlene Roxas of Alameda says her cousin is stressed trying to finish requirements and apply for college.

"Resources are just harder to find," said Roxas, "It's just more anxiety adding to the stress of taking the test."

The state says the achievement gap is also widening.

High school graduation rates statewide dropped slightly to 84% and fell more for African American (72%) and Native American students (73%).

Nicholas Dunwood, Senior, an Alameda parent says he would like to see more options for virtual learning and COVID testing when students return from vacations and weekends, to help ease concerns about catching COVID in class.

"You might have symptoms, or you might not want to come because somebody tested positive," said Dunwood.

The non-profit Oakland Promise says they see the struggles students are facing in Oakland.

"During this time, we want them to still keep their aspirations and dreams alive and help them and encourage them," said Wallace Louie, the Oakland Promise Communications Director.

During the pandemic they have given out more than 6,000 kits to help students stay motivated and learn.

"Items like a white board which a lot of students needed to do at-home learning, as well as a marker, a book talking about future career and how they see themselves," said Veena Pawloski. Oakland Promise Director K2C, adding that the kits also needed a piggy bank to give children an introduction to saving for college.

The Oakland Promise staff are trying to keep students motivated to look long-term, by partnering with the City of Oakland to give $100 scholarships to every public school student. During the pandemic Oakland Promise also launched a web portal to make it easier for parents to sign up.

"If you have a family starts out with a college savings account, they will have more tendency to think about college as a mindset and prepare for that," said Louie.

Oakland Promise plans to continue distributing kits to students through the year and is hoping the community will help by volunteering to assemble the kits or becoming a mentor to the hundreds of students who need guidance every year as they navigate their way through college.

Test Results for California's Assessments

Jana Katsuyama is a reporter for KTVU.  Email Jana at and follow her on Twitter @JanaKTVU or Facebook @NewsJana or