North Carolina students have made progress in catching up academically compared to when public schools reopened in 2021 during the coronavirus pandemic, the Department of Public Instruction said Tuesday.
A 500-plus page report presented to the General Assembly examined standardized test scores in 2022 and those in spring 2021 on a number of subjects, news outlets reported.
Based on an analysis from Cary-based SAS Institute, the Recovery Analysis Report showed the largest gains in math, with smaller gains in science and in particular reading. Students had been trailing the largest in math during 2021, according to the document.
“Our teachers and our school leaders and our students still have work to do, but we are headed in the right direction,” said Jeni Corn, director of research and evaluation in the Department of Public Instruction’s Office of Learning Recovery and Acceleration.
The analysis looked at the gap between students’ levels in 2022 versus what their academic progress was expected to be, if it hadn’t been disrupted during the pandemic by closed schools and limited in-person instruction time.
Researchers calculated the projected performance of students based on their average schooling experience and compared it to actual student statewide testing. The difference is then converted into a rough estimate of “months” behind in learning.
Tuesday’s report, which contained the 2022 test scores and was discussed in a House committee, showed gaps ranging from just two weeks in third grade reading to as large as nine months in the “Math 1” curriculum taken by high schoolers or middle schoolers. Spring 2021 test scores had shown gaps ranging from two to 15 months.
In a news release, state schools Superintendent Catherine Truitt pointed out that federal pandemic stimulus funds for education have yet to be exhausted and can be used to help narrow the gaps further. Money has been spent in part on salaries for education staff, monitoring student progress and summer learning and tutoring opportunities.
Some legislators expressed skepticism about the gains or cited the report while lamenting the months that students were out of the classroom.
“We were failing our students by keeping them out of school,” said Rep. Brian Biggs, a Randolph County Republican. “There’s no replacement for in-person learning.”
The report, which also was submitted by the State Board of Education, doesn’t evaluate progress made during the 2022-23 school year because standardized testing hasn’t yet been completed this spring. The department used state standardized tests, as well as rea ding assessments in the earliest grades, for the analysis.