The Maryland State Board of Education was notified on Tuesday of the results of standardized tests that have passed since December. Figures from Maryland’s Global Assessment conducted this fall show, unsurprisingly, that children have lost ground across the board during the pandemic’s virtual learning days.
Only 15% of public school students in grades 3-8 were found to be proficient in math, down from 33% in 2019, when the last test was taken. And 31% were fluent in English, up from 44% two years ago. In Grade 10 English, students fell to 43% proficiency from 57%; Performance in Algebra I fell 20 percentage points to 7% year over year; and high school students‘ science skills fell from 49% to 35%. Kindergarteners were also 7 percentage points less ready to start school, at 40% readiness. As Lillian Reed of The Sun reported in February, it marked the largest single-year declines of any state test given in at least the past two decades in Maryland.
Also, as expected, children with disabilities or whose families struggle financially or who are learning English as a second language are often the worst off, and many of them are concentrated in the city of Baltimore.
“These numbers are really, really shocking, and there’s no place in the state where you can sit and feel good about those numbers,” school board member Jean Halle told co-workers on Tuesday. according to Maryland Matters. “It’s cry-worthy.”
While the numbers are certainly grim, they shouldn’t be new to the council, given the disruption students have been experiencing from the pandemic. Their classrooms were closed overnight. They had varying access to technology and reliable internet, as well as different levels of home supervision. They were isolated from their friends, withdrawn from extracurricular activities and, for the youngest, did not yet know how to read, let alone write. He is a privileged and well supervised child who can excel in this environment.
Data that could tell us more is now being collected across the state through spring assessments. These numbers will show what the return to in-person learning has been able to achieve. And on that front, at least nationally, there is positive news.
The Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday that a nationwide study by Wisconsin-based educational technology company Renaissance Learning Inc., analyzing the nationwide assessment results of 7 million K-12 students, showed that the widespread return to in-person learning resulted in growth in both reading and math from fall through winter for most students. Growth is slower than in pre-pandemic years and overall performance is lower, but progress is being made.
We would expect similar gains to be seen in Maryland’s spring scores as students receive hands-on support. In Baltimore City, for example, the COVID recovery plan includes programs that address social and emotional development with academics: accelerated learning, tutoring, small group teaching, and extended day opportunities for those who need a boost. inch to catch up with the school level.
However, there’s one group that’s not showing much growth in Renaissance study: young children who hadn’t learned to read before the pandemic and are still struggling to cope. Although virtual learning was the best option at the time, it was not conducive to early literacy development, which often involves a range of strategies – and significant supervision from instructors. It’s much easier to find those who are having trouble in a room full of kids engaged in activity than in a Zoom window full of little faces.
These pre-readers and struggling readers are where school systems should focus a significant amount of energy. By third grade, children have largely shifted from learning to read to reading to learn, and those who haven’t mastered this skill will fall further and further behind their peers with each passing week.
A study published last month by New York-based curriculum and assessment firm Amplify Education Inc. suggested that a third of children currently in kindergarten through third grade will likely be reading below grade level by the end of the school year. There are thousands of children who need intensive help, and they need it now.
But with already stretched school systems, resources are scarce. It will take creative vision, extensive programming and a holistic approach to address: reading volunteers in the classroom, homework that parents have to do with their children, extended learning opportunities during the day or year .
These children had no say in the upheaval of their young lives when it happened. It is up to us to ensure that they are not left behind as the world moves forward. COVID has already taken too many lives; their future should not be among them.
The Baltimore Sun’s editorial writers offer opinion and analysis on news and issues relevant to readers. They operate separately from the press room.