Recently released test scores from some of California’s largest school districts — representing more than 1 million students — offer a preview of what’s likely to be steep drops in reading and math scores statewide in the wake of COVID.
The scores, which districts released individually at the request of EdSource, show sharp declines in all grade levels from 2019, before COVID forced the closure of most campuses to in-person learning, and 2022.
The California Department of Education has delayed releasing the full statewide results from the 2022 Smarter Balanced assessments, which are given annually to third through eighth graders and 11th graders to measure progress in English language arts and math. Under pressure from EdSource and other media outlets, the department recently agreed to release the scores by the end of October.
Meanwhile, EdSource has collected individual results from 10 large districts, including Los Angeles Unified, San Diego Unified, Fresno Unified, Lodi Unified, Long Beach Unified, Sacramento City Unified, Sweetwater Union High School District, San Ramon Valley Unified, Bakersfield City School District and Mt. Diablo Unified.
The results show consistent declines in all categories from 2019, but some variations among districts and subgroups:
- Only 13% of students in Bakersfield met the state standard for math.
- Reading scores in Los Angeles Unified dipped only slightly from 2019 to 2022. Still, only 41% of students in 2022 were proficient in reading.
- Math scores in Fresno dropped by a third. In 2022, only 21% of students met the math standard.
- Reading scores in Long Beach dropped 11 points, but declines were less steep in math. Math scores fell only 4 points.
- In Mt. Diablo Unified, one of the few districts to break down the results by subgroup, Black, Latino, English learner, foster and unhoused students had far lower scores compared with 2019 than their white and Asian peers. For example, among English learners, 96% did not meet the math or reading standards.
By and large, scores show little change from 2021, the first year results were released after the state suspended the 2020 tests due to COVID. The 2021 test was optional for schools to administer, so results were limited and likely not an accurate reflection of students’ progress overall. Just under 25% of students took the test in 2021.
Lodi Unified saw scores in both math and reading improve from 2021, but they still lag significantly from 2019. That’s not a surprise, considering the difficulties teachers and students faced as they returned from distance learning, said Robert Sahli, assistant superintendent.