“It’s alarming,” Oklahoma education leaders investigate lasting impact of COVID-19 on students following ’21 state testing scores, rates

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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – It’s no secret our state’s students have taken a major hit during this pandemic.

There have been quarantines, school closures and virtual learning – all impacting their ability to learn.

The results of standardized testing in our state are now out – and the state’s superintendent is calling them “concerning.”

Overall scores in English Language Arts and Math dropped around 10%.

Science dropped around 5%.

The testing was not done in Spring of 2020 due to the pandemic – so these numbers are giving a look at its impact. State education leaders say it’s important to carefully take a deep dive into this information – to better the future of Oklahoma’s students.

“We’re looking at all of the data, not just one indicator or statistic, it’s got to be all hands on deck, every kid matters,” said State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister, speaking on testing results from 2021 – results that showed a significant drop.

“It’s alarming,” Hofmeister said. “Again, we’re in a pandemic, we were in a pandemic and a time where we know schools, teachers were using every resource they had to try to connect with students.”

It was tough year on everyone – particularly our state’s younger learners.

Third grade English Language Arts as well as Math both dropped 14% from 2019 to 2021.

“You can’t expect children to learn if they are disconnected socially, emotionally, been through trauma, loss, separation,” said Hofmeister. 

Photo goes with story
Students in the classroom.

Hofmeister says for years, they will be looking at this data, hoping to help all of these students impacted by the pandemic, as they move forward.

“We are concerned every year that our students graduate in Oklahoma ready for their next steps in learning, in careers, through our fabulous career tech system or into college or the military,” said Hofmeister. “All of that requires a certain entry point and baseline foundational skills.”

According to the State Department of Education, perhaps the most important thing to note is participation rates in 2021’s testing were staggering, even with an extended testing window.

Hofmeister says a 95% participation rate allows them to get a good picture of where a school stands – but this year – the lowest rates ranged from 7.4% to the 30s and 60s.

“We’re very concerned about the children who have had disruption due to the pandemic and it’s not the same group of students in every school,” said Hofmeister

They want schools to look at which groups of students were not tested.

“We need to ask why and we need to ensure we are meeting the needs of all of our students, particularly the students who have the greatest needs – special education students, English learners, kids that are economically-disadvantaged, children that have been struggling historically,” said Hofmeister.

Hofmeister says the whole picture matters.

“There may be a district that may not have had as high of a participation rate as a neighboring district and they may look better when you see the proficiency rate, but it’s very important for the districts and the public to look at that participation rate before they try to make any comparison between classrooms, between schools and between districts,” she said.

Hofmeister says this data is also crucial in determining where funding goes to address the issues through things like tutoring and training for teachers.

She says 90% of COVID-19 relief funds went right through to the districts.

“This is truly a once-in-a-generation opportunity with regard to these federal relief dollars,” said Hofmeister. “We don’t want to squander a penny.”

You can see the full report presented to the State Board of Education Thursday morning here.

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