What are Inland Empire school districts doing with declining state test scores? – San Bernardino Sun

It’s something educators and critics alike have feared since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, and data last week confirmed it: The pandemic has set California’s — and the nation’s — students back.

“Covid has been tough on everyone. The kids are frustrated and there’s been some learning loss,” said Hemet Unified School Board Vice President Stacy Bailey. “But the kids are excited to be back in school, not behind a computer.”

On Monday, October 24, the California Department of Education released the results of the 2021-22 California Assessment of Student Achievement and Progress (CAASPP), which tests students’ proficiency in English Language Arts (ELA) and math.

In Los Angeles County, 47.2% of students taking CAASPP tests met or exceeded academic standards in ELA, along with 32.7% of students meeting or exceeding standards in math.

“Collectively, as educators, we felt there was going to be a drop in scores,” said Darren Knowles, Pomona Unified’s interim superintendent.

In Riverside County, 42.1% of test-takers met or exceeded academic standards in ELA, along with 26.1% of students meeting or exceeding standards in math.

“All test results for this year still reflect COVID,” Bailey said. And all districts, including Hemet Unified, are “playing catch-up.”

And in San Bernardino County, 39.9% of students taking the tests met or exceeded academic standards in ELA, along with 24.5% of students meeting or exceeding standards in math.

“It’s not surprising that the challenges of COVID-19, including distance learning, chronic absenteeism, social-emotional well-being and other disruptions such as staffing shortages, have hindered student progress,” Jenny Owen, spokeswoman for San Bernardino County’s superintendent of schools. he wrote in an email.

The CAASPP results were released on the same day as the results of the National Assessment of Educational Progress, commonly referred to as The Nation’s Report Card, with similarly dismal results.

Last spring marked the first time in two years that the CAASPP test was given to all California students in grades three through eight and 11. The tests were canceled in spring 2020 and made optional in 2021.

As a result, educators warned against directly comparing the 2019 and 2022 results and said the 2022 results should be considered a new starting point for the future.

“For many students, especially those in the elementary grades, these results represent the first time they’ve ever taken a standardized test, and for middle and high school students, it was the last time they took the (rigorous CAASPP) summative assessment in the spring. of 2019; over three years ago,” Riverside Unified spokeswoman Diana Meza wrote in an email. “It’s important to remember that tests are only one measure of student success at one point in time.”

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But years before the CAASPP results were released — which school districts could see before the public did — educators were trying to address the academic damage caused by the pandemic.

“We know the pandemic has had a negative impact on our students — academically, socially and emotionally,” said Jurupa Unified Assistant Superintendent Dave Doubravsky. “Even before state testing data was available, Jurupa Unified began implementing resources to address learning gaps and support student success now and in the future.”

The district is creating community school programs at six schools along with free online tutoring for students in grades 6-12, hiring literacy and math support teachers to work with smaller groups of students, and reducing class sizes and blended classes at elementary schools.

It’s a similar story elsewhere in the Inland Empire.

“When the kids started coming back and we started seeing those effects, we had staff on site,” said Lilia Fuentes, Pomona Unified’s assistant superintendent for educational services. Among other steps the district is taking to catch up with students is tutoring, which is available to every student in the district.

“Small groups really benefit students who are really behind,” Fuentes said. “Tutoring was everywhere. Whether it was remotely or in person.’

Similarly, Yucaipa-Calimesa Joint Unified is providing 24-hour access to online tutoring, as well as after-school tutoring and a new summer school program launched during the pandemic.

“The additional (pandemic-related) funding we received from distance learning has allowed us to provide a lot of additional support in both math and ELA during and after school,” said Lance Bradley, spokesman for the Yucaipa-Calimesa Joint Unified School District. .

San Bernardino City Unified “employs numerous strategies to help students get back on track academically, including providing targeted instruction through school learning labs, tutoring through extended learning opportunities before and after school, and double blocks of instruction at the high school level,” spokeswoman Maria Garcia wrote in email.

Other districts have broadened their focus to include supporting student needs beyond academics.

Mental and social-emotional health has become an area of ​​concern for many school districts following reports of rising youth suicides in 2020, with growing concerns about student isolation during distance learning.

Moreno Valley Unified Superintendent Martinrex Kedziora said his district hired a new director of wellness and mental health, as well as 10 new social workers. More full-time mental health therapists and counselors were placed in elementary, middle, and high schools.

“There’s a lot of angst, more conflict among our kids,” Kedziora said. “Teachers feel a lot more pressure because students have social-emotional needs that are more present. So we take every opportunity to make sure we can help students be better.”

And more fundamentally, Hemet Unified’s focus is on “improving student literacy and chronic absenteeism,” which “go hand in hand,” Bailey said, because if students “don’t show up at school, they’re not going to learn how to read better.”

Information on how districts did on the CAASPP can be found online at caaspp-elpac.ets.org/caaspp.

Staff writer Brian Whitehead contributed to this story.

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