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Ozarks schools react to state test scores dropping amid COVID-19 pandemic

Published: Sep. 16, 2021 at 9:31 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - Students across Missouri did worse on average in all subjects and grade-level statewide tests.

The pandemic caused many students to learn virtually. Fordland Superintendent Dr. Chris Ford says that’s why he thinks some test scores dropped across the state.

“Data has proved that in-person learning and attendance definitely does matter,” Dr. Ford says.

The state education department found students scored higher when they had access to internet and a device. The department says about 80% of students had internet access.

However in rural Missouri, Dr. Ford says that’s more of a struggle.

“The broadband issue was a huge hurdle for us,” Dr. Ford says. “We could provide hotspots to kids but with our terrain in the Fordland school district, a lot of times even though they had the hotspot getting cellular data was sometimes very difficult.”

Roughly 45% of public school students scored at least proficiently at English in the 2020-2021 school year, according to results provided by the Elementary and Secondary Education Department. That’s down from the closer to 49% of students who tested that well in the 2019 school year.

Students did worse in math and science, with scores for math dropping from around 42% in 2019 to 35% of students performing at grade level the last school year. In science, test scores dropped from 42% proficient to 37% proficient.

The new director of the Department of Health and Senior Services, Donald Kauerauf, says he was alarmed when seeing the state’s test scores.

“My son is a mechanical engineer and I could’ve only imagined if he was set behind in basic algebra how that would have stunted his development all the way though school and into college,” Kauerauf says.

Nixa’s executive director of curriculum and assessment, Dr. Josh Chastain, says the school district’s scores actually improved compared to those in 2019. Dr. Chastain says that is partly due to benchmarks in place tracking student improvement.

“So we could have a better prediction of where we were going to be on our MAP test and having over 900 students virtual, we made sure that we had the connections, we had the assessments with those virtual students so we could monitor their progress along the way,” Dr. Chastain says.

Dr. Chastain says that doesn’t mean there wasn’t learning loss among some Nixa students. Especially in those younger kids, with the early developmental skills they needed to learn.

“There’s always those areas we need to make sure we’re supporting our students with and making sure we’re drilling down to help those students on their individual needs,” Dr. Chastain says.

A little more than half of students tested last year were learning in-person, according to data from the education department. Another 10% learned exclusively online, while 31% were taught via a mix of both ways.

The state education department won’t release district and school-level data until later this year.

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