While we all knew intuitively that students’ education suffered during the pandemic, it was still sobering to see the latest standardized test results across Colorado. The results document that student test scores declined since the last pre-pandemic tests were administered to all third through eighth grade students in 2019.
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While standardized tests are not particularly popular and while there have been bi-partisan legislative efforts to scale them back, test results do show us trends of how students are doing on a macro level. Tests were canceled in 2020 and administered to a limited group of students in 2021.
As would be expected given the disruption to schools, the 2021 tests showed significant declines, but those results provided limited chances to fully evaluate the results because the tests were not administered to all grades and participation levels were much lower than usual. All regularly tested students took the 2022 tests and participation levels equaled pre-pandemic levels, so they give us a chance to examine how the chaos of the pandemic on our kids’ education affected their progression.
And when we add how the pandemic affected teachers and how they both do and feel about their jobs, these test results should be another wake-up call about the need to continually prioritize the importance of public education and our societal need to prioritize it in our lives and to make sure our educational institutions have sufficient resources to do their jobs.
There are federal resources related to the pandemic that we should use to address specific deficiencies that are a result of the disruptions in our kids’ studies so that they can catch up, but any conclusions about the impact of the pandemic on student achievement is incomplete unless it continues on to acknowledge when it came to K-12 education, we had plenty of work to do before the pandemic.
While standardized tests are not the do all and be all for measuring student achievement, they can be a helpful tool to measure trends in how students are meeting educational expectations. In both 2019 and 2022, less than half of all students who were tested in every grade (3rd through 8th) and for both English and math met or exceeded expectations.
As this new school year starts with fewer COVID restrictions and a much more traditional operation of our schools than in the last two years, the results of this year’s standardized test scores is a good reminder that we owe it to our kids and to our collective future to make schools and student achievement a priority.
Greg Romberg had a long career in state and local government and in government relations. He represented corporate, government and trade association clients before federal, state and local governments. He lives in Evergreen with his wife, Laurie.
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