MCAS results show students recovering from pandemic learning turmoil, but reveal losses in English language arts

Following the release of MCAS 2022 results, school districts have focused on recovering from learning losses resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Statewide standardized test results released Thursday show students are recovering from the chaos of pandemic learning, but reveal losses in English language arts.

Elementary and middle school students saw an overall gain of 6 percentage points in the number of students who met or exceeded math expectations while in grade 10, math scores fell by 2 percentage points, a lower decline than the previous year.

“The results should not be compared to the 2021 test in isolation,” Springfield Schools Superintendent Daniel J. Warwick said. “We have to look at the big picture, which is where student achievement was in 2019, before the pandemic. When we analyze the data from this perspective, it makes the 2022 losses bigger and the gains smaller. »

For example, math and English scores for children in grades 3 to 8 fell by 7 percentage points in both subjects from 2019 to 2021. This year, these students gained 4 points in math, ending some of the drop created by pandemic learning, but their English scores again dropped by 1 point.

“Remember that when we compare these results to pre-pandemic levels, we still have a way to go through all the subjects before recovering all these learning losses,” said Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Jeffrey C.Riley.

Students at all state levels showed lower English scores.

Statewide, students in grades three through eight saw steeper declines in English, dropping 5% from 2021, with just 41% meeting or exceeding the expectation range. Grade 10 students declined by 6%, and only 58% met or exceeded expectations.

In Holyoke, which is under state receivership due to low MCAS scores, results are mostly in line with state trends, with math scores rising slightly in grades three through eight and falling slightly in grades 10. year. Science scores increased in fifth and eighth grades.

“English language arts scores have declined overall, although fifth grade ELA scores have remained stable and seventh and eighth grade ELA scores have increased slightly,” said Anthony Soto, superintendent of public schools. of Holyoke. “Compared to pre-pandemic levels in 2019, grade 10 ELA results remained stable, but results fell in all other levels and subjects.”

“We know that urban centers like ours have suffered more from the pandemic for a variety of reasons and the residual effects of those stressors have lingered,” Warwick said.

During the pandemic, learning losses have been compounded by increased chronic absenteeism and this remains a challenge. “You can’t learn when you’re not in school, or when you’re not feeling well physically or emotionally,” Warwick said.

According to data provided by the state Department of Education, 18% of all students missed 18 days or more in 2021. This number increased to 28% of students who missed 18 days or more in 2022.

“We’re hoping for a better year with absences,” Riley said. “We had an acceleration roadmap that encourages teachers to teach at the grade level and scaffold any skills children may have missed, as well as focus on students’ social and emotional development.”

In 2022, Springfield students missed an average of about 15 days of school compared to six days missed the year before, Warwick said.

The data does not take into account the impact on instruction loss due to teacher absences, he said.

“Good attendance clearly has an impact on success. Top-attending students (above 90%) were at least twice as likely to meet or exceed expectations in each subject as chronically absent students (missing 10% or more school days, or on average more of 18 days a year),” Soto said.

“As we move past the initial stages of the pandemic, Holyoke Public Schools is taking several important steps to help our students get back on track academically and improve overall student attendance when absences are unrelated to disease,” he said.

Other districts have also begun implementing stimulus work to address learning losses.

In Springfield, that includes this fall’s option for the extended school day, the dispersal of additional state funds and federal pandemic grants for interventions such as the summer enrichment program for all grades.

“Every school is different, and we didn’t want to prescribe cookie-cutter intervention programs, but rather allow schools to find additional support programs tailored to meet the unique needs of their student population,” said said Warwick.

Additionally, the district is placing a new emphasis on the importance of students’ social-emotional needs and has also implemented a new Six-Year-Old Graduate Framework and Strategic Plan that are rethinking the education and training systems. support. The initiative was developed by students, families and the community to address the key elements that prepare students for post-graduate success inside and outside of school.

The Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment Systems exam is usually given in the spring to students in grades three through eight and 10, but was skipped in 2020 due to the school’s pandemic closure. of COVID-19. In 2021, an abridged version was given to students in grades three through eight.

Acting West Springfield Superintendent Vito Perrone said the district wasn’t where it wanted it to be, but it saw gains in English in grades six and seven, third, fourth and eighth, it saw gains in math, and districtwide science scores exceeded the state average. .

It recorded a three percentage point drop in English from third to eighth grade and a seven percentage point drop in the same subject in grade 10.

“We try to keep in mind the two and a half years of absence,” Perrone said. “We want to be graceful around the challenges and take them into account while looking at the data.”

The district is emphasizing action on the increases that were achieved last year and working to reduce the sharp declines in score data this year. Because West Springfield is a largely diverse city with most of its English-language learners at the new Philip G. Coburn Elementary School, a new model of inclusion will help mitigate pandemic-related losses, Perrone said.

This model combines paraprofessionals, English, special education and reading educators with groups of students at the same reading level to provide intensive support that meets their needs.

Because the COVID-19 pandemic has focused so much on masking, virtual learning and protocols, Perrone said, students and educators have moved away from everyday expectations and the resetting of those expectations for students, teachers and administration will keep students engaged and make them want to come to school again.

“Teaching and learning have been severely disrupted for more than two years, so I don’t think anyone was surprised by the state data indicating the learning loss experienced by students across the state. , and Springfield Public Schools reflect that trend,” Warwick said.

In Springfield, the first critical points of recovery stemming from the district and community vision in Portrait of a Graduate are to integrate problem-based learning; accountability for diversity, inclusion, recruitment and equity in staff; and better social-emotional supports for students, and more.

In Holyoke, part of the focus is on strengthening early literacy education, providing families with factual information and positive supports to reinforce the importance of good school attendance, and helping families to find solutions to potential obstacles. Additionally, schools assess and analyze students’ unmet learning needs while supporting teams of teachers throughout the district.

According to Riley, DESE has funded acceleration academies, early literacy efforts, and summer learning and the state will continue to do so until learning losses are recovered.

“We know that with time and the right supports, our students can reach and surpass their previous successes,” said Riley.

Content from the State House News Service is included in this story.