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Idaho student scores drop in math, English language tests

August 18, 2021 GMT

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Idaho students lost some academic ground during the coronavirus pandemic, with standardized testing scores dropping in math and language arts compared to 2019.

The Idaho Department of Education released the Idaho Standardized Achievement Test, or ISAT, scores on Tuesday. The test — required under federal rules — is typically administered to students in 3rd through 8th grades and 10th grade each spring.

But the 2020 test was canceled after the federal requirement was temporarily lifted as schools closed amid the coronavirus pandemic.

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For the 2021 round of testing, students showed the biggest decline in math skills, with 39.6% of students testing at “proficient” or “advanced” levels this spring, compared to 44.4% two years ago. English language arts skills has a smaller drop, with just over 54% of students scoring as proficient or advanced compared to 55% in 2019.

“The onset of the pandemic in spring 2020 disrupted the ISAT along with all Idaho school operations, so we weren’t surprised that scores did not continue the gradual upward trend of the previous few years of testing,” Superintendent of Public Instruction Sherri Ybarra said in a statement. “We expected an impact, and now we can use these results to move forward to rebuild academic performance.”

The Idaho State Board of Education ordered schools to temporarily close statewide on March 23, 2020 in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus. At the time, Idaho was one of the last states in the nation to close its public schools, but many school districts had already temporarily closed on their own.

Last fall, several school districts went online-only again as coronavirus cases skyrocketed. The Boise School District started the fall semester with a hybrid schedule, with students alternating between in-person and online classes to allow for fewer people to be in the classroom at one time.

But by mid-November, the district was forced to go online-only with nearly 1,600 staffers and students isolating because they had coronavirus or were exposed to someone with COVID-19.

The switch to remote learning was fraught, as students, teachers and officials grappled with how to provide lessons, software, technical support and school lunches to kids in a variety of home settings.

Those struggles are likely to continue during the current school year as the spread of highly contagious delta variant of coronavirus surges across Idaho.

Last week, Idaho Gov. Brad Little said he was directing $30 million in emergency funds to expand COVID-19 testing in K-12 schools. He urged residents to get vaccinated against the coronavirus, calling the vaccine the state’s “main defense in ensuring the new school year is entirely in-person.”

Ybarra said efforts are underway at districts across the state to address the impact the pandemic has had on student learning, including increased tutoring for struggling students and extending academic time by offering summer school, afterschool programs and other measures. She said that work would help students regain the lost academic ground.