New Haven Register (New Haven, CT)
Data: Test performance fell during pandemic
NEW HAVEN — In a school year where the lion’s share of city students learned remotely, participation and performance on the state’s 2020-21 assessments suffered.
Overall participation for the 7,323 city students who spent the year learning fully or mostly remote was below 75 percent on the state’s Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium tests given last spring to third through eighth graders, according to data provided to the school board this week.
That compares to a 95 percent participation rate for the 1,562 students who participated in the district’s in-person hybrid mod
el once it became available.
In performance, roughly 22 percent of all city students — both who learned remotely and in the classroom — scored in the proficient range for their grade levels in English/Language Arts when tested in person last spring.
In math, 10 percent of students who learned remotely and 12 percent of those learning in person scored in the proficient range when tested in person. Some 1,632 students who stayed remote also tested remotely. Of those, 28 percent tested in the proficient range in English/Language Arts and 15 percent in math.
With so many different learning models and disruptions, Michele Sherban, the district’s director of research, assessment and evaluation, cautioned the board against comparing the results to past years or to other districts.
But that is exactly what some board members say is necessary to do.
“I know you said don’t compare to other districts but how do we compare to other districts?” asked Mayor Justin Elicker, who is a member of the school board.
Elicker called it helpful information to have particularly during a pandemic when everyone in the nation is struggling.
Sherban insisted she has not compared
Comparisons are, however, available from the state.
Statewide results released in early September showed students across Connecticut lost ground academically during the pandemic that shut down schools for inperson learning for the last four months of the 2019-20 school year.
In the 2020-21 school year, with the pandemic still raging, some districts turned to a hybrid model that rotated students through in-person learning. A couple of districts, New Haven included, decided to stick with remote learning for the fall, then phased students back into the classroom. Even then, parents were allowed to continue with virtual learning.
According to the state, students who learned fully or mostly in person throughout the 2020-21 school year had better outcomes than those who learned in hybrid or remote learning models, especially in math, according to test results.
In 2020-21, about 77 percent of grade 3-8 students without high needs who learned in-person state-wide tested in the proficient range, compared to 68 percent who learned in a hybrid model testing at the proficient level and 62.4 percent who learned in a fully or mostly remote setting.
In math, the gap was larger. About 68.7 percent of students without high needs who learned in person tested at the proficient level in 2020-21 compared to 53.2
percent for hybrid students and 45.2 percent of remote learners.
The state also gave a science test in grades five, eight and 11.
In New Haven, participation among remote learners on the science test was just over 60 percent. In the 11th grade, the remote participation rate was 12.9 percent. Roughly 30 percent of all 4,257 New Haven students who took the science test scored in the proficient range for their respective grades.
Sherban said there were a number of reasons for lower participation in testing among remote learners in New Haven, including connectivity issues.
Before last spring, the state last gave its assessment tests in 2018-19. The new results do not count toward state accountability standards but are being used to evaluate the pandemic’s impact and help target resources.
State officials have said the results strengthens its push for a return to full time, in person learning.
In New Haven, the use of remote learning for a year and a half has the school board exploring the creation of a virtual academy – using what it learned from the remote learning experience -- that could serve some students even after the pandemic is over.
Superintendent of Schools Iline Tracey said New Haven did what it thought was right in starting the school year last year
“We were trying to be safe,” Tracey said.
She called the state assessments just one measure that informs the state much more than it informs local instruction.
Tracey told the board more valuable are local assessments that help inform whether students are moving “from point A to point B.”
“Our children are smart, our teachers are smart,” Tracey said.
Board member Edward Joyner agreed, suggesting tests should be used to diagnose, not punish students.
As for this year, the district had 19,722 students learning, in person, as of Friday, Sept. 24, according to Sherban. Another 265 are in out-of-district placements.
The daily attendance rate is about 84.9 percent and better now than it was on the first day of school.
There remain 353 students that are unaccounted for, meaning they are still on the rolls, but have not attended school at all this school year.
District officials called the overall attendance rate fairly typical and say some of the missing could be students who left the district without officially withdrawing.
Board President Yesenia Rivera said there could also be cases of students left homeless by a wave of evictions taking place since the pandemic moratorium was lifted.