Student assessment results see sharp decline after pandemic

In Oregon’s first large-scale student assessment since the COVID-19 pandemic, statewide academic performance has declined significantly statewide and locally.

The Oregon Department of Education released its first state assessment results since 2019 on Thursday, following a statewide testing waiver due to the coronavirus pandemic. COVID-19.

Some rates have dropped by almost 10 percentage points, and the results show that less than half, or in some cases less than a third, of students statewide are meeting key benchmarks.

According to the latest data, which reflects the 2021-22 school year, less than 44% of Oregon students tested were proficient in English language arts. About 30% were considered proficient in mathematics and 29.5% in science.

By comparison, in 2019, about 53% of students tested proficient in English, 39% in math and 37% in science.

“Across all grades and across all content areas, there have been skill declines,” Dan Farley, ODE’s director of assessment, said in a recent media webinar.

This was true for all ratings and demographics tested, Farley said.

Students who were already below the proficiency level saw a steeper drop in test scores, he said, meaning students who were already behind fell even further below the benchmark. during the pandemic. Historically, this has included students of color, students with disabilities, English language learners, and students considered economically disadvantaged.

However, this year’s data declines were expected. The state expected scores to drop and expected many students to have been delayed by the remote learning period.

ODE Director Colt Gill said the Oregon assessment results are a call to action to continue advancing programs that meet student needs.

“While current generations in our country have not experienced learning disruptions on the scale of a global pandemic, previous generations have,” Gill said. “School has been significantly disrupted by disease, natural disasters, war and other events for people in this country and others throughout history.

“We are resilient if nothing else,” he said. “…We have already seen assessment scores increase for students who have had more time to learn on the spot.”

Eugene-Springfield district ratings below state averages

Students and their parents arrive at Two Rivers-Dos Rios Elementary School for the first day of classes in Springfield on Wednesday, September 7, 2022.

School districts in the Eugene-Springfield metro area saw their scores drop after the pandemic, with far fewer students testing proficient in English than in the 2019 results.

Students in the Eugene 4J School District performed above the state average, with nearly 50 percent of students tested proficient in English. But that number represents a 12% drop from 2019 results.

Additionally, at Eugene 4J, 37.6% of assessed students tested proficient in math and 36.8% in science — down from 8.8% and 9.3%, respectively, from 2019.

Springfield public school students were tested with 34.9% proficiency in English language arts, down 13.5% from 2019 results.

In math, less than a quarter (23.4%) of Springfield students were proficient, and in science, 22.9% were proficient.

It was found that students in the Bethel School District had a 14% decrease in their English skills from 2019 to 2022. The report showed that 35.7% of Bethel students were proficient in English.

Less than a quarter of Bethel students were proficient in math (21.7%) and science (22.1%).

Attendance at assessments was below the state average for Eugene-Springfield’s three largest districts:

  • Springfield’s public school average attendance was about 78%.
  • The average attendance for Eugene 4J School District was approximately 75%.
  • The Bethel School District was the lowest, about 62%.

For these three districts, and the state in general, participation decreased slightly at the higher levels with a significant drop in participation at the secondary level.

Prior to the pandemic, all three districts had participation levels above 88%.

Officials noted that the lower the turnout, the more likely there is a margin of error in the assessment results.

Pandemic impact on national trend learning

A first-grader receives hand sanitizer from education assistant Kari Hoefer before entering the building while his peers wait behind him in 6-foot increments.  Guy Lee Elementary's first grade and kindergarten students are screening for a second attempt to return to school since the pandemic began on Thursday, February 4, 2021.

Officials said federal and state investments, including the Elementary and Secondary Schools Emergency Relief Fund, the Student Success Act and the High School Success Fund, have been pushed to provide aid. to schools and get students back on track academically, socially and mentally.

“The pandemic has impacted learning, here in Oregon and in other states,” Farley said, adding that studies and progress in other states show recovery is doable and happening.

“Learning is accelerated in states that were able to return to in-person learning teaching models sooner than we were able to here in Oregon,” he said.

Farley said states like Florida, Tennessee and Texas were already showing improvement after the pandemic.

In Florida, grades 3-8 math scores were 61% in 2019 based on assessment data. By 2021, scores had fallen to 51%, comparable to Oregon’s skill drop.

However, according to the results of Florida State assessments in 2022, mathematics proficiency in grades 3-8 increased to 55%.

Federal authorities require testing in 2021

Statewide assessments were suspended nationwide in 2020 due to the pandemic and subsequent school closures. But in 2021, US Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona announced that states would no longer benefit from blanket waivers.

The ODE requested a waiver for testing in 2021, hoping to continue without testing as they had done in 2020. However, the federal Department of Education denied the initial request. Months later, the state agreed to a partial waiver, requiring English language arts, math, and science only for certain classes. All other levels were offered the tests but were not required to take them.

Typically, tests are administered to pupils each year, with English and mathematics assessments given to pupils in Years 3-8 and 11; and science assessments given in grades 5, 8, and 11. A level 3 or 4 result means the student has met or exceeded state standards and is considered to be on track to graduate. Students receiving Level 1 or 2 scores are notionally identified to receive additional support.

Parents can withdraw their child, but the majority of students statewide participate. Participation rates, while higher than spring 2021, have yet to reach pre-pandemic levels.

Change in value for the importance of assessment data

Sixth graders participate in orientation activities led by older students at Monroe Middle School on Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2022 in Eugene, Ore.

There has been a shift in the value placed on statewide assessments since before the pandemic.

Critics of state assessments have previously argued that the tests are not an adequate way to assess knowledge or retention, nor a thorough way to predict the likelihood of graduation or future student success.

State officials agree that snapshots are limited, especially since data collection is time-consuming and presents a picture of students who are no longer in the same classrooms or schools, in some cases.

Additionally, Education Department officials admitted that the assessments do not measure the extent of an individual student’s academic learning. Assessments are limited to three academic subjects and do not name all of an individual’s strengths, talents, gifts, or needs. Additionally, they do not describe the full context of what a school offers socially or academically to students.

However, officials argue that testing is still an important accountability measure.

Gill explained that the ODE is taking a new angle on how it views assessments. Instead of determining whether or not students are succeeding individually, assessments reflect the whole system.

“I wouldn’t advise a family to look at their own child’s test results and make major decisions about that result,” Gill said. “But for the health of the system and the way we deliver education to students, it’s a good measure. I think we all anticipated that after a pandemic we would see an impact on academic learning. And the evaluation showed that, so it’s an audit of that system that shows it works.

“This creates a post-pandemic baseline for us that future assessments can help us measure if we are making progress and helping our students address this unfinished learning.”

Gill said that in addition to statewide summative assessment, interim testing throughout the year will be a big help in keeping students on track. On a smaller scale, they will help teachers know where students need extra help in their classrooms.

Oregon education officials said assessment results are easily quantifiable and command attention, in part because they are easily communicated.

Student assessment data is available at

Natalie Pate covers education for the Statesman Journal. Send him comments, questions and advice at or 503-399-6745. Follow her on Twitter @NataliePateGwin.

Miranda Cyr reports on education for The Register-Guard. You can contact her at or find her on Twitter @mirandabcyr.