CLEVELAND, Ohio — Ohio student performance on two statewide assessments has dropped in fall 2020, and fewer students took the tests, according to state data.
State assessments, canceled for the spring, returned in the fall. The federal government did not permit waivers for these tests, though the Ohio legislature did pass a bill that will skip state school report card grades for 2020-21, and waived the state’s Third-Grade Guarantee. Students cannot take tests remotely, so leaders at districts that conducted classes online in the fall needed to figure out how to transport students to buildings and have them take the tests safely.
Ohio districts made “good faith efforts to complete testing,” according to a post on the Ohio Department of Education website, but safety came first.
State testing is one of the main ways that Ohio gathers information on student and district performance, and can provide some information on how much learning was lost during the sudden shuttering of schools in the spring and the remote, blended and online school models in the fall. Experts say this state-wide testing can provide some information on the “big picture” on learning loss, but on an individual level, teachers and districts should consider a more holistic approach to assessing students.
The percentage of enrolled students who took the kindergarten readiness assessment dropped from 93% to 78%, and the percentage who took the third-grade English Language Arts test dropped from 95% to more than 81%.
The kindergarten readiness test and the third-grade English Language Arts test are important state assessments, and are used to shape a student’s educational future. This year, 47.6% of participating students for the literacy and language section of the kindergarten tests scored “not on track.” Last year, 39.7% scored not on track. About 23% of students scored in the lowest performance level, a change of about 1% year to year. Proficiency rates for the third-grade tests dropped 8 percentage points, and more than 87% of districts showed a drop in percent of students scoring “proficient” or higher.
The losses in third grade proficiency were steeper in districts that used a fully remote education model, by about 3 percentage points.
Those who did not take the kindergarten tests were more likely to be students with disabilities, English learners, economically disadvantaged or non-white, according to Department of Education data. For third-graders, minority and economically disadvantaged students or those who reside in districts with “low average achievement levels,” were less likely to take the tests.
“It is important to emphasize how these results should and should not be used,” the Ohio Department of Education post on the data reads. “These data provide some clues to generally understanding where students are in their progress. Different groups of students may be in different places. The preliminary participation and assessment data suggest the state’s most vulnerable students have been most impacted. … It is important to note these data should not be used to rank districts and should not be compared to previous Ohio School Report Card results.”
A report on the results by Ohio State University faculty found that average achievement on the third-grade English language assessment fell the equivalent to one-third of a year’s worth of learning. Research also showed that the student achievement impacts in third-grade English language arts seem to be highest in areas that experienced higher job losses.
“It appears that COVID-related unemployment explains approximately one-third of the decrease in average test scores statewide,” the report reads.
The report also notes that test store decline was much steeper in Black students than white. The declines were nearly 50% larger. Economically disadvantaged students also experienced larger losses.
Enrollment in public districts also dropped significantly during the pandemic, across the board, with the majority of the losses coming in kindergarten and preschool. Kindergarten dropped by 8% and public preschool enrollment decreased by 27%.
Read the full report on the Ohio State University website.