Louisiana students performed worse in standardized testing during the COVID-19 pandemic

By: - August 4, 2021 1:40 pm

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More Louisiana students in grades 3 through 8 and high school performed at an “unsatisfactory” level in math and English during the COVID-19 pandemic school year compared to the last full school year before the pandemic, according to assessment data the Louisiana Department of Education released Wednesday.

“In the face of immense adversity, students, teachers, administrators and parents showed unwavering resiliency — demonstrating a deep commitment to both safety and learning,” said State Superintendent Cade Brumley in written statement. “This LEAP 2025 data will be invaluable in guiding our instructional, policy, and resource allocation decisions as we recover and accelerate from this unprecedented interruption to student learning.”

Nearly one in five — or 19% — Louisiana students in grades 3 through 8 performed at an “unsatisfactory” level in English, 18% performed at an “unsatisfactory” level in Math, 20% performed at an “unsatisfactory” level in Science, and 30 % performed at an “unsatisfactory” level in Social Studies. More students performed at an “unsatisfactory” level during the COVID-19 pandemic school year than the 2019 school year — the last assessment scores available.

Students who perform at an “unsatisfactory” level — the lowest assessment score possible — have not met their grade level’s expectations and “will need extensive support to be prepared for the next level of studies in this content area,” according to the education department’s website.

Meanwhile, 38% of students in grades 3 through 8 scored at a “mastery” or higher level in English, 33% performed at at least a “mastery” level in math and 20% performed at a “mastery” level in science and social studies.

Students who score below “mastery” level have not yet met their grade level’s expectations and “may need additional support to be fully prepared for the next level of studies.”

Carrie Griffin Monica, executive director of Stand for Children, said in a statement the assessments “prove what we suspected — the pandemic would have a significant negative impact on student performance… our state has much work to do.”

Students in grades 3 through 8 who learned in-person throughout the pandemic school year also performed 15 % higher in English and math than students who learned remotely all year.

Barry Erwin, president and chief executive officer of Council for a Better Louisiana, said in a phone interview Wednesday that while the assessment data was “disappointing,” the declines in learning loss suffered in Louisiana statistically weren’t as bad as learning loss in other states — particularly because most Louisiana public schools taught students in-person for most of last school year.

“We were in a little bubble when it comes to schools,” Erwin said. “I think maybe what we will end up showing is that there was certainly some value to (providing more in-person instruction) and maybe that our declines were not as great as you might see in some other areas.”

In March, Louisiana ranked 7th among states with the highest number of students back to face-to-face instruction.

Monica also said in-person instruction was important, and that continuing teaching face-to-face “while adhering to all advised safety precautions to protect the health and well being of students and teachers” must be prioritized.

In high school, 17% of Louisiana students performed at an “unsatisfactory” level in English II, 17% performed at an unsatisfactory level in Algebra I and 32% performed at an unsatisfactory level in U.S. History. High schools saw increases in students who performed at an “unsatisfactory” level in all subject areas compared to the 2019 school year.

Meanwhile, 45 % of high school students performed at at least a “mastery” level in English II, 29 % performed at at least a “mastery” level in Algebra I and 25 % performed at at least a “mastery” level in U.S. History.

Tia Mills, the president of the Louisiana Association of Educators, said now schools need to address the learning loss so students don’t fall and stay behind.

“We are coming up with innovative ways, innovative measures to instruct our students, to pump up our students, to develop the minds of our students until we can see that something is sticking and working,” Mills said.

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JC Canicosa
JC Canicosa

JC Canicosa is an award-winning journalist at The Louisiana Illuminator. Canicosa has previous experience at Investigate-TV and The Loyola Maroon and earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Loyola University New Orleans. At Loyola, he was the senior staff writer at The Maroon and the president of the school's chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. Off the clock, Canicosa enjoys playing basketball, watching movies and dabbling in comedy writing.

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