by Jason Hancock, Missouri Independent (www.missouriindependent.com)
A new report released this week documents the impact of COVID-19 on student performance in Missouri, with test scores for math and reading dropping from pre-pandemic levels.
The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) assesses students in fourth and eighth grades throughout the nation in math and reading every two years, though its 2021 assessment was delayed until this year because of the pandemic.
Missouri’s scores mirror those of most other states, with decreases in both math and reading for both grade levels from the 2019 assessment.
The percentage of Missouri eighth graders who performed at or above the proficient level in math was only 24%, down from 32% in 2019 and only slightly higher than the 21% from the 2000 assessment.
Reading scores were not much better, with only 28% of students at or above proficient, compared to 33% in 2019.
For fourth graders, 34% tested at or above proficient in math compared to 39% in 2019 and 23% in 2020. In reading, 30% tested at or above proficient, compared to 34% in 2019 and 28% in 1998.
The report also shows a performance gap between white and Black students in Missouri. Black fourth grade students, for example, had an average score in math that was 36 points lower than that for white students.
“The results serve as another indicator that high-quality instruction matters,” Missouri Commissioner of Education Margie Vandeven, said in a statement.
“It’s clear that the pandemic had an impact on student learning and that there is work to do. We must use this information,” Vandeven said, “alongside state and local metrics, to continue accelerating post-pandemic learning with improved systems and processes to meet the needs of each student.”
The NAEP is not the first data showing student performance was impacted by the pandemic.
In August, the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education released preliminary test scores for the 2021-22 school year showing that, just like last year, fewer than half of Missouri students statewide passed with proficient and advanced scores across subjects.
There were small improvements compared to results from the 2020-21 school year, with 39% of students proficient or advanced in math — an increase in four percentage points, and 38% of students proficient or advanced in science — an increase of one percentage point. However both scores remained below the 42% of students testing proficient or advanced in both subjects in 2019.
Meanwhile, students’ performance slightly declined in English language arts, with a 2 percentage point drop to 43% compared to last year. In social studies, 40% of students tested proficient or advanced.