by Cole Lauterbach
Students in Arizona’s public schools failed reading and math assessments at higher rates this spring than before the COVID-19 pandemic.
Test results from the AzM2 and MSAA – Arizona’s two statewide assessments conducted annually – show around oner-third of students who took the tests passed them, though the Arizona Department of Education (ADE) warns not to read too deeply into the low scores.
In one of the latest signs of learning loss because of the pandemic, only 38% of public school students who took the English Language Arts (ELA) section of the assessments passed; a 4% drop in the share of students who passed in 2019. The situation was worse in math with only 31% of students passing, an 11% decrease in mathematics scores compared with 2019. Only 84% of students took the ELA assessment, and 86% took the mathematics section, which was lower than a suspended federal requirement.
ADE is comparing the scores to the 2018-2019 school year because the COVID-19 pandemic halted testing in the spring of 2020, when schools across the state shut their doors to in-person learning. There were questions about whether the testing would be done in 2021 until the U.S. Department of Education announced in February that schools must conduct them.
The state assessments are taken in-person for students in grades 3-8 and grade 10. In a routine year, school funding from the state is partially weighed using these scores, with better testing schools getting more funding. Gov. Doug Ducey suspended that equation last year.
Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman said in an Aug. 29 news release that local educators are ready to catch up students now that they’re back in classrooms.
“We know our students are ready to learn, and our teachers are ready to provide every student with the academic and mental health support they need. Together, our school communities are prepared to accelerate learning and help students succeed,” Hoffman said. “We know that the most effective teaching and learning happens in the classroom when students are learning with their peers and a highly qualified educator.”
Hoffman warned about the spread of COVID-19 in schools this fall.
“I am deeply concerned about what another school year disrupted by COVID-19 will mean for our students. We must get the virus under control and use proven mitigation measures in schools so safe in-person learning can be maintained throughout the year,” she said.
Hoffman has gone on record opposing a state law that bans any type of mask or vaccination mandate at the state’s public institutions, saying she would impose a mask mandate if she were able.
Data from the Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) shows 189,000 of the state’s more than 1 million confirmed COVID-19 infections are in people age 20 or younger, though a higher percentage of those newly infected in recent weeks are younger. ADHS attributes 37 deaths in that age group at least partially to the virus. The Arizona Center for Investigative Reporting found more than 2,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases in students since the fall semester began in August.
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Cole Lauterbach is a regional editor for The Center Square covering Arizona, California, Oregon, and Washington. For more than a decade, Cole has produced award-winning content on both radio and television.
Photo “Classroom” by Vail School District.