The Pennsylvania Department of Education released the 2020-21 standardized test results on Friday, and scores fell sharply in most categories.
But state education officials warned the numbers were skewed due to COVID-19 conditions.
Statewide testing turnout, which has traditionally been around 99%, has dropped to around 71%. The PDE attributes the decline to several factors, including pandemic-related school staffing issues, transportation issues and building closures.
English scores on the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment exams for third- through eighth-grade students declined 3.5 to 7 percent statewide. Math scores fell 7-11%. In science, fourth-grade students’ scores fell by about 2% and eighth-grade students’ scores by about 7%.
Participation in the Keystone exam at the secondary level in English language arts and sciences was so low that there were not enough eligible testers for reports. The Keystone literature exam, usually given to pupils in grade 10, was the hardest hit, being taken by only 9% of pupils.
The PSSA and Keystone exam results at each school level, along with other school information, can be found at Future Ready Pa Index, www.futurereadypa.org.
State Department of Education Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education Sherri Smith acknowledged that this year’s test scores were far from the norm, and said it would be “inappropriate to make comparisons with the results of previous years.
Pennsylvania will not use test scores for accountability for school performance or teacher evaluations.
“Historically, standardized assessment results have been an important part of understanding school performance and our work to close achievement and opportunity gaps. But this year’s results are anything but standard. We recognize that the global COVID-19 pandemic has brought tremendous challenges to the school year, affecting students, teachers and staff, as we strive to protect the public health and safety of everyone in our halls. class,” Smith said.
“As Pennsylvania reports this federally required data, it urges caution in interpreting the results, given the unique learning conditions over the past several years,” she added, saying that the results should not be considered a complete and representative sample of all students. Commonwealth.
Laurel Highlands School District Superintendent Dr. Jesse T. Wallace III said the drop in test scores reflects the challenges all school districts have faced in educating students during the pandemic.
“I can look at the empirical data and determine that the pandemic definitely contributed to the decline of the state. The ebb and flow of pandemic challenges is making it difficult for children to learn,” Wallace said. “We are doing our best to keep our children in school and close any educational gaps due to COVID, and keep moving forward.”
Central Greene School District superintendent Dr. Kevin Monaghan said lower test scores indicate the importance of in-person instruction, despite school districts’ efforts to provide virtual learning.
“Not every child can learn virtually,” Monaghan said. “I feel like everything was so fragmented and lacking a lot of structure to allow for fundamental growth. This year we’re seeing a little more normalcy, with kids back in the classroom, and students doing much better when they’re face-to-face instead of synchronous online learning.
Pennsylvania State Education Association President Rich Askey said the 2020-2021 school year was “anything but routine,” and the test results should come as no surprise.
“We don’t need standardized test scores to tell us that students have struggled over the past two years. The 2021 tests were administered during a global pandemic that has disrupted public education and dramatically changed the way students learn,” Askey said. “Everyone would expect scores and turnouts to drop in this environment.”
Askey called the standardized tests administered during the pandemic “a compliance exercise” that offers “a very incomplete measure of student performance.
“These standardized test results confirm what we already know: that Pennsylvania students are still recovering academically, socially and emotionally from the effects of the pandemic,” Askey said. “Rather than focusing on standardized test results, we hope that school officials and state policymakers will access federal COVID relief funding to address pandemic-related challenges in our schools, address a shortage of ‘educators who reach crisis levels and help students succeed.
Because districts had the opportunity to administer tests between the traditional spring window and September, PSSA scores were released months late.