State assessment results show pandemic's impact on student learning

Education, school
Posted at 9:24 PM, Aug 31, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-01 00:24:32-04

ABC15 is digging deeper into the pandemic's impact on the state of education.

On August 27, the Arizona Department of Education released results from statewide testing done in the spring. Scores were down from previous years with just 38% of students taking the AZ Merit test, now known as AzM2, passing the English Language Arts portion and 31% passing the math portion.

"My kids have never gotten below a B, ever, and now, we are talking that we have Ds and Fs, so yeah, it's really hard," Amy told ABC15 back in February. Like many families in districts across the Valley, her high schoolers were struggling with a rise in failing grades.

Now it seems our first statewide testing results since the pandemic began paint a similar picture.

Overall, Arizona saw a four percent drop in English Language Arts scores and an 11% drop in math scores compared to 2019. The assessments were not administered in 2020 because of school closures and COVID-19.

"It was not a surprise to see the data," said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman. She says the impact of switching between remote and in-person learning is one of many key takeaways from the past 18 months.

"To me, that means doing everything we can this year to maintain in-person learning," Hoffman said.

The data also shows a widening of demographic disparities that have existed for years.

Asian and white students passed at much higher rates than African American, Hispanic/Latino and lower-income students.

Migrants, students with disabilities and those with limited English proficiency had the lowest passing rates.

"Because of how far behind our state was as far as families' access to technology and the skills and abilities of educators and, on the user end, the families and students to use the technology," Hoffman said, "To me, it seems like everyone was going above and beyond to minimize the disruption."

Moving forward the Department of Education will continue investing COVID relief funds and building partnerships to help accelerate student learning. However, Hoffman warns there is still a long road ahead.

"Until we get this virus under control and we're able to maintain in-person learning without disruption, I think it is going to take years to truly know the impact of that," said Hoffman.

Another variable impacting the data is that fewer students took the test in 2021 than in previous years since they were only administered in person.

Normally this information is used to dictate what letter grades schools receive from the state and those grades are tied to funding. Governor Ducey again paused that grading system this year, but also made it clear that is a temporary change.

Click here to view the complete assessment results.