As the school year winds down, some K-12 students might need to spend more of their summer playing catch-up than in previous years.
Researchers at The Ohio State University studied third grade English Language Arts test scores from the entire state and found that students — on average — lost about a third of a year’s learning between fall 2019 and fall 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The OSU study, published in January, also found that learning loss was more significant in districts that had no in-person instruction when the 2020-2021 school year began.
Columbus City Schools was one of those districts.
NBC4 Investigates requested third grade reading test results over five years and found a significant drop in scores during the pandemic.
Third grade reading skills are tested once in the fall, to establish a benchmark, and again in the spring, to track improvement. CCS provided spring test scores for the school years ending in 2017-2019, and fall test scores for this school year and last.
The spring reading test was canceled in 2020, and results for the spring 2021 reading test will not be available until June 28, according to the district.
The data shows that 15.5% of students scored at least on the “proficient” level in fall 2020. That’s down from 22.3% the previous fall, before the pandemic forced schools to close.
Dr. Machelle Kline, the district’s Chief Accountability Officer, said fall reading test scores typically show an 18-24% proficient rate.
“I’m not surprised that those scores are where they are,” she said.
Test scores tend to increase significantly in the spring. Forty-three percent of CCS third graders achieved a score of “proficient” or higher in spring 2019.
Students this school year were allowed to opt out of the standardized assessment. The Ohio Department of Education also dropped retention requirements, so no student will be held back a grade due to a low test score.
Julie Miller opted for her third-grade son, who is enrolled in Columbus’ digital academy, to take the fall test.
“I just wanted to know how he would do,” Miller said. “I think because we were doing something that was so different this year, it was hard for me to know – is he on track?”
Miller’s son passed the test. For those who did not, Kline said CCS was able to use the available scores to help students progress during the school year.
“We’re coming up with intervention plans that will specifically address the needs of each student,” she said.
Kline said the individualized approach will continue into the next school year, and the school will take advantage of lessons learned during the pandemic to keep kids caught up.
“We’re hoping that the learning gaps are actually reduced because of some of our technology that we are able to bring our students,” she said.
Kline encouraged CCS students to sign up for the Summer Experience program, to prevent any further learning loss before next school year. Information on the program can be found here.