As could be expected the state's schools suffered “learning loss” as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic as the state recently released an assessment showing a decline in test scores.

The state results also showed the area's three largest school districts — Porterville Unified School District, Burton and Lindsay — all performed below the state level. There was one local school, Hope Elementary School, that performed above the state level.

This week the state released its results from the 2022 Smarter Balanced Summative Assessments. It showed the percentage of students who met or exceeded standards in English Language Arts declined by 4 percent from 51 to 47 percent. And the results also showed an even larger decline in math from 40 percent who met or exceeded standards to just 33 percent.

The results were done in comparison to students who took the test in 2018-2019 or prior to the pandemic. Students in third through eighth grades and in 11th grade took the assessments.

Locally Hope slightly beat the state standard in English Language Arts as 47.8 percent of its students met or exceeded the standard as compared to 47.06 percent in the state. But where Hope really stood out was in math where it did significantly better than the state. 48.43 percent of its students met or exceeded the standard in math as compared to 33.4 percent in the state.

For PUSD, 39.65 percent of students met or exceeded the ELA standard while 22.54 percent met or exceeded the standard in math. For Burton 40.27 percent met or exceeded the ELA standard while the number was 23.22 percent in math. For Lindsay the number was 38.45 percent in English and 21.45 percent in math.

Students also didn't fare as well in science at the local and state level although again Hope performed above the state level. There were 29.45 percent of students who met or exceeded the standard in science while the number for Hope was 32.73 percent.

The numbers were 22.45 percent for Burton, 18.40 percent for Lindsay and 18.11 percent for Porterville.

“Students across California had their lives disrupted in many ways by the COVID-19 pandemic and those in Porterville Unified School District were no exception,” PUSD superintendent Nate Nelson said. “While everyone worked incredibly hard to offer support throughout with unparalleled investments in connectivity, technology, personnel and other resources the extent of the academic impact was evidenced in the 2022 California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress. We see these CAASPP results as a new baseline in the post-pandemic world and our priority is to continue to keep our students safe while providing high-quality instruction, needed intervention as well as opportunities and experiences for our students to improve and excel.”

Nelson added while many challenges remain, the district saw a number of bright spots when analyzing the data more closely. He said there were a number of classes and grade levels at various sites that did show growth despite the many obstacles over the past few years.

“We are confident that a focus on high-quality, data-driven instruction and continued professional development will bring similar growth to all students,” Nelson said.

Nelson said the district are adding numerous staff including counselors at every elementary school, speech and language pathologists, psychologists, social workers, intervention specialists and many more specialized staff to also help support students' mental health and other needs.

“PUSD is committed to ensuring our students continue to have the resources they need to grow on all fronts and achieve their highest potential,” Nelson said.

The state did announce there appears to be a recovery from the pandemic learning loss based on 2020-21 English Language Arts and math scores. In the spring of 2021 about 740,000 students — about 25 percent of the state's students — participated in the Smarter Balanced Summative Assessments for ELA and math. Students in grades three through eight and eleven took the assessment.

The state announced an analysis of looking at the same students who took the test in 2021 and comparing their results to 2002 “showed steeper-than-normal achievement gains at most grade levels, a hopeful signs that the state's robust investments in accelerating learning are paying off.”

The state also announced while math scores declined from 2019 to 2022 they didn't decline as much as at the national level. The state said the same was true for its fourth graders' scores in reading which declined but not as much as the national level.

As a result California moved up in the national rankings in math and reading. The state said it should also be noted its eighth graders showed no decline in reading from 2019 while the nation saw a drop. According to the state Los Angeles Unified School District was the only Trial Urban District Assessment participant to show significant gains in eighth grade reading.

The state has made available $7.9 billion in Learning Recovery Block Grants, $4 billion in its Expanded Learning Opportunities Program and $250 million for literacy coaches.

“California focused on keeping kids safe during the pandemic while making record investments to mitigate learning loss and transforming our education system,” Governor Gavin Newsom said in a statement. “While California's students experienced less learning loss than those in most states during the pandemic, these results are not a celebration but a call to action — students are struggling academically and we need to keep getting them the resources they need to thrive.”

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