Standardized Test / SAT - Photo courtesy of Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Pointing to the COVID-19 pandemic as the driving factor, the Los Angeles Unified School District released test scores Friday showing sharp drop-offs in proficiency among students in nearly all grade levels in English and math.

According to the preliminary Smarter Balanced Assessments, the percent of LAUSD students meeting or exceeding state standards in English dropped by about two percentage points compared to the pre-pandemic 2018-19 year — falling from 43.9% to 41.7%. In math, the drop was steeper, falling by five percentage points from 33.5% to 28.5%.

“As anticipated, the preliminary state assessment results illustrate that there is no substitute for in-person instruction,” Superintendent Alberto M. Carvalho said in a statement. “Los Angeles Unified is proactively addressing the decline in achievement performance, particularly in English language arts and mathematics, at all grade levels.

“We are working collaboratively to accelerate and realize the learning potential of every student, bolstering important support systems including instructional, mental health and community supports to meet the needs of our students and realize our goals outlined in our 2022-2026 Strategic Plan.”

According to the figures, the percent of students meeting or exceeding the English standard fell in all grade levels except eighth grade, which saw slight increase. The biggest drop was in the 11th grade, which fell by 7 percentage points. Third-graders fell off by 4.5 percentage points and fourth-grades fell by about four points.

In math, every grade level saw a decrease, led by the 11th grade with a 9.7 point drop-off from 28.6% to 18.9%. Eighth- and sixth-graders saw a nearly six-point drop.

“Los Angeles Unified has acted with urgency to ensure our students have the necessary supports to recover from the pandemic this year, and these results further underscore the need,” LAUSD Board of Education President Kelly Gonez said in a statement. “We have invested in strategies — from ensuring there’s a teacher in every classroom to summer school, tutoring and mental health supports — that will help us accelerate learning for all students, particularly our highest needs students who have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic.”

District officials said a variety of steps are included in the Strategic Plan to address learning loss from the pandemic, including the hiring of more teachers, providing additional training opportunities for teachers at the highest-need schools and using the test scores to guide “instructional planning and personalized learning so all students reach proficiency.”

The 2021-22 tests were the first administered in LAUSD since the pandemic began. Statewide results have not yet been released.

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