There’s nothing surprising about the results of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium tests recently released by the state Department of Education. They show what we’ve felt to be the case during the coronavirus pandemic and reflect the stark reality of its influence on schooling. Yet it’s still valuable to have the statistics behind the story, and they show that when it comes to going to school there’s no substitute for in-person learning.
This makes all sorts of sense. Physically being among your peers and in the presence of your teachers is an advantage. It’s not much more complicated than that. And the results show that this makes more of a difference the younger the learner, that early grade school pupils need the in-person experience while the more seasoned students in the upper grades can do a better job more often fending on their own.
The Record-Journal’s coverage of the report’s release, which can be found at myrecordjournal.com, contains many statistical details about performance locally and statewide. Across Connecticut, student proficiency rates were lower during 2020-21, the year of the pandemic onset, than during 2018-19. This held true particularly for those who relied on remote learning for all or part of the year. Those who spent at least three quarters of their time learning in person fared the best. Those spending less than three quarters of school time learning in person, or had spent all or most of the year learning remotely, showed, as a press release stated, “substantially weaker achievement and growth during the pandemic.”
Looking at Meriden during the 2020-21 school year, a quarter of students in grades three to eight who spent most of their time learning remotely reached grade level proficiency, while more than a third of students who were learning in person were at grade level.
School systems did not have to wait for the report to take steps to counteract the disadvantages.
“We offered a more comprehensive summer program than we ever had before,” said Steve Madancy, the school superintendent in Southington. That program attracted an impressive 900 students, compared to a turnout that is typically in the range of 200.
The good news, also, is simply that the pandemic did not eclipse learning, though there is ground to make up. The details in the report should help focus those efforts.