OKLAHOMA CITY – Statewide testing data from spring 2021 has been released today with caution advised on how to interpret the results. The scores show that Oklahoma students, like those across the nation, paid an alarming price for the multitude of disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Results from the Oklahoma School Testing Program (OSTP) provide the first statewide measure of student performance during the pandemic. Students in Grades 3-8 take assessments in math and English language arts (ELA) and students in Grades 5 and 8 take assessments in science. Students in Grade 11 take a state-developed science assessment as well as the ACT or SAT to fulfill high school testing requirements.
An individual student’s score is indicative of where they are relative to the end-of-year grade-level expectations. In 2019, the last time students took spring assessments, 31.9% overall were proficient in math, compared to 22.1% in 2021. There was a nine-percentage-point drop in proficiency in ELA, declining from 33.4% in 2019 to 24.8% in 2021. In 2019, 34.5% of students tested proficient in science compared to 29.7% in 2021.
“The effects of the pandemic will be seen and felt for years to come,” said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister. “There is no quick fix, but we must not and cannot give up. As Oklahomans, we will strengthen our efforts to ensure our kids are learning in a classroom with their peers and their teachers are equipped and supported as well.”
It is important to note that there are too many variables to attribute student performance to any single reason, according to Maria Cammack, deputy superintendent of assessment, accountability, data systems and research for the Oklahoma State Department of Education (OSDE).
“More importantly, we are asking schools and districts to engage in a deeper exploration of their data to understand who tested and who did not test while considering local context and variables,” said Cammack. “This can help ensure that student needs be met locally.”
Statewide participation rates for the OSTP are federally required to be at 95% or above, but a federal waiver for spring 2021 did not require that rate. Oklahoma’s statewide participation rate was 92% in math, 92% in ELA and 91% in science. Because that falls under 95%, the OSDE cannot be confident that the students tested are representative of the full population of students. Consequently, the data requires additional analyses to support comparison to prior years.
The OSDE has created several tools to help understand test scores:
- A toolkit for families (with webinars and slide deck available Oct. 5)
- An overview on interpreting SY 2020-2021 state assessment scores
- Educator-specific guidance addressing key questions
- Supports for school administrators, including:
Due to pandemic-related concerns, spring 2020 assessments were waived by the U.S. Department of Education. Additionally, state and federal report card requirements were waived for the 2020 and 2021 school years. Therefore, this year’s assessment results will not be used for school report cards.
Participation rates, enrollment trends and performance data for the 2021 spring assessment for each district will be available next week on the Oklahoma Data Matrix at oklaschools.com.
Hofmeister said the assessment scores starkly illustrate that Oklahoma, like most states, is at a crisis point in education.
“Interruptions to classroom learning are evident in these results, and they underscore the need to provide a safe and stable school environment,” she said. “We must restore and create opportunities for all students while considering the reality of the continued pandemic.”