Results show effect of pandemic on student learning, indicate points of interest
By Joseph Back
First you learn to read, as the saying goes. Then, you read to learn.
In which case, focusing on strengthening elementary age reading ability within South Washington County Schools could be of prime importance in helping to navigate the ongoing education-based fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, at least in terms of future instruction.
With reading, math, and science scores suffering statewide between 2019 and the present time, South Washington County wasn’t immune from the trend, with an 11.3 percent drop in average reading proficiency district wide, a 13.5 percent drop in math proficiency, and a 13.4 percent drop in science proficiency. Reading scores across the district fell in a steady decline from 2019 to 2022, while math and science mostly bottomed out in 2021 after a drop from 2019 to 2021.
Due to COVID, meanwhile, no state report card data exists for the 2020 school year.
As of the present among elementary schools, Liberty Ridge has the highest score, at 72.1 percent of students meeting standards.
Pullman Elementary has the lowest, with just 39 percent of students judged as proficient and meeting standards. The average across all district elementary schools is 56.11 percent for meeting reading standards As to the middle and high school level, the pandemic wasn’t without fallout. A comparison of pre and post-COVID (meaning post shutdown) report card scores show the following:
• A decline in the percentage of those meeting reading standards, the drop ranging from 12.4 percent fewer meeting said standards at Cottage Grove Middle, to 14 percent fewer meeting the same standards at Woodbury Middle School, as measured before COVID hit.
• A decline in the percentage of those meeting mathematics standards, the drop ranging from 13.9 percent fewer meeting standards at Cottage Grove Middle, to 23 percent fewer meeting them at Woodbury Middle School.
• A decline in the percentage of those meeting science standards, the drop ranging from 8.2 percent fewer meeting standards at Oltman Middle School, to 26.6 percent fewer at Lake Middle School.
High School was not spared the report card drop from the last few years, with math suffering the worst in terms of subject matter. The percent meeting math standards fell by 14.4 percentage points at Park High, 17.1 percent at East Ridge, and 30.3 percent at Woodbury High School respectively.
Reading and science suffered as well, though not to the extent of math. Park High fell by 15.1 percent in terms of those meeting reading standards, while East Ridge suffered a 14.2 percent drop in those meeting science standards, each constituting the highest loss in their respective categories. Woodbury and Park showed mixed results in terms of bounce back or continued decline, while East Ridge rose from 2019 to 2021 in its reading and math, with these then returning to a downward trajectory with 2022. The South Washington County Alternative School graduated just 23 people in 2022, lacking sufficient data to make comparison from pre to post pandemic. The Alternative Schools covers grades 10 through 12.
Returning to the elementary school level as the first of three levels to master, the data shows a mixed report over the COVID shutdown. The greatest reading decline compared to where each school stood pre-pandemic was at Armstrong, which saw a drop of 13.7 percent in those students considered to meet said reading standards. Armstrong experienced a bounce back from 2021 to 2022 in its math and reading scores of 7.9 and 6.1 percent respectively, while science has continued to decline by score measure, going from 72.7 percent meeting standards in 2019 to just 47.2 percent in 2021, with 2022 showing 37.9 percent of students as meeting standards, a drop of 34.8 percent compared with pre-COVID scores.
As to math, the most precipitous fall came at Pullman, which has seen a collective drop of 20.5 percent in terms of those students considered to meet standards versus 2019, while the good news is that Pullman is experiencing a bounce back from 2021, with each learning measure (reading, math, and science) gaining at least six percentage points in 2022, and up to 10.7 percentage points.
As to Science, the school to suffer the greatest setback at present is Armstrong, the second greatest being Crestview, with a current deficit of 18.6 percent in those meeting standards for science.
Newport Elementary, meanwhile, saw a precipitous science drop from 59.5 percent meeting standards in 2018, to 40.5 percent in 2019, down to 28.1 percent in 2021, and back up to 60.0 percent in 2022. Math at Newport saw a similar if not quite as spectacular rebound, to site at 54.8 percent meeting standards presently. Reading at Newport rose slightly over the pandemic, from 60.3 percent meeting standards in 2019 to 62 percent in 2021, followed with a present status of 54.8 percent of Newport Elementary students meeting reading standards per the state report card.
In other notable results from the elementary level, Bailey Elementary saw a bounce back in math and science to gain 3.6 percentage points in terms of those meeting math standards and 7.3 percent in those meeting science standards, coming out to 64.3 and 50 percent respectively.
As to reading at Bailey, the scores saw a fall of 1.3 percent over the two year period from 2019 to 2021, with a more pronounced drop of four percent from 2021 to 2022 in terms of meeting standards, coming to rest at present with 61.1 percent meeting reading standards at Bailey.
As to Cottage Grove Elementary, the state report card numbers show a bottoming out in reading for a present 62.8 percent of Cottage Grove elementary students meeting standards as of 2022, while math underwent a slight decline and science skill rose, to sit at 74.5 percent and 74.4 percent respectively in terms of meeting standards.
For Crestview, the numbers show a slight uptick in reading for 2022 with mixed results in math and science compared to 2021, math rising to sit at 45.2 percent meeting standards at Crestview and science declining to sit at 34.1 percent meeting standards presently.
Moving along to Grey Cloud, the scores show a decline followed by a rebound in math and science from pandemic shutdowns, while reading at Grey Cloud has continued a downward trend even as schools have largely reopened statewide. The reading score at Grey Cloud for 2022 is 59.8 percent.
Skipping from Grey Cloud to Middleton, the numbers show a more gradual bottoming trend, with slight upticks in math and science while reading has gained just 0.4 percentage points in terms of proficiency for 2022 compared with 2021. This however follows a 12 point drop in those meeting standards from 2019, suggesting a modest comeback.
From Middleton we head in turn to Nuevas Fronteras, which saw its biggest net percentage drop in science with a fall of 11.5 percentage points in those meeting standards, while math saw a 8.6 percentage point drop and reading 6.2 percent.
As for Pine Hill, a dip that started pre-COVID bottomed out for the present in 2021, with 29.9 percent of student meeting science standards, 44.4 percent meeting those for math, and 47.1 percent meeting reading benchmarks as of 2021, with modest gains at present, potentially reversing a trend.
As for Pullman, the numbers show a net drop of 20.5 percent in those meeting math standards between 2019 and 2022, with a low point of 32.4 percent reached in 2021 as to math. For science, the present proficiency for Pullman students stands at 33.3 percent, a 5.7 percent drop from 2019, but a 10.7 percent rise over 2021, when just 22.6 percent of Pullman students met standards.
As to reading at Pullman, the numbers show a net drop of 8.5 percent since 209, but a 6.1 percent rise from the low point of 32.9 percent meeting standards in 2021.
Shifting finally for the present to Red Rock Elementary, the school saw an 11 percent drop in those meeting reading standards between 2019 and 2022, along with a seven percent drop in those meeting math standards, and a 4.9 percent drop in those meeting science benchmarks. Lest readers think all is bad news, however, there were some educational gains in the COVID shutdown era.
Starting with Cottage Grove Elementary, Math has seen a 1.3 percent net increase between 2019 and 2022 as to those meeting standards, while Science has seen a net increase of 2.2 percent in those meeting standards at Cottage Grove.
Also making slight gains over the pandemic was Royal Oaks, which saw a 2.8 percent net increase in students meeting math standards, and a 4.2 percent net increase in students meeting science benchmarks. No school, however, was able to make net reading gains over the three year period from 2019 to 2022.
If anything good might be taken away from the above numbers, it’s that young minds are flexible, and where there is effort, there is hope. In the meantime, it might be a good idea to go easy on your favorite learner for a while as to their school performance. They’ve had a tough few years to get by in terms of learning their lessons and filling in knowledge gaps.