Alabama test scores drop after pandemic interrupts classes
MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Preliminary standardized test scores released Thursday showed an expected drop in student achievement last year after the COVID-19 pandemic interrupted classes.
State education officials briefed school board members on the preliminary results from standardized tests students took last spring. The average ACT score for 11th graders in the 2020-21 school year was 17.2, compared to 18.2 the year prior. The percentage of students in second through eighth grades considered proficient in English language arts was under 53% for each grade. The percentage considered proficient in math ranged from 34% of second graders to only 14% of eighth graders.
Superintendent Eric Mackey said the drop was expected after schools “got our legs knocked out from under us with COVID.” Many schools implemented remote learning during portions of the COVID-19 pandemic and in-class learning was also interrupted when students were sent home to quarantine.
“Last year was a horrible year for teachers. We had students who were in school part of the time. They were out of school part of the time. We had students die. We had teachers die. We had parents to die. It was just a really bad year and the test results are going to show that,” Mackey said.
Students took a new assessment last year called the Alabama Comprehensive Assessment Program, complicating comparisons with prior years. However, Mackey said the tests showed a drop in proficiency.
The drop was most dramatic in math. More than 40% of eighth-grade students were considered proficient in math in 2018-2019 tests, a number that education officials had expressed concern about. That figure plummeted to 14% last year under the new assessment.
The numbers discussed Thursday came from raw unverified data, but Mackey said he did not expect the state scores to change much. District and school level numbers will be available Sept. 27 after schools verify them.
Mackey said the state has already implemented a recovery effort with targeted remediation. He said the state saw record participation in summer reading camps as families voluntarily try to make up ground lost to the pandemic.
But the superintendent added that he is also concerned about this year after the state has seen a surge in cases that has caused some schools to temporarily close. Public schools reported nearly 9,200 virus cases in students and staff last week. Mackey said he expects well over 10,000 cases to be reported this week.
“I am very worried about this year at this point,” he said.
According to the scores discussed Thursday:
—43% of second graders were considered proficient in English language arts and 34% were consider proficient in math.
—51% of third graders were considered proficient in English language arts and 30% were considered proficient in math.
—52% of fourth graders were considered proficient in English language arts and 24% were considered proficient in math.
—46% of fifth graders were considered proficient in English language arts and 25% were considered proficient in math.
—45% of sixth graders were considered proficient in English language arts and 22% were considered proficient in math.
—43% of seventh graders were considered proficient in English language arts and 16% were considered proficient in math.
—52% of eighth graders were considered proficient in English language arts and 14% were considered proficient in math.