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New LEAP data shows the impact of COVID-19 pandemic on children’s education

(Louisiana Department of Education)
Published: Aug. 5, 2021 at 10:28 PM CDT
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SHREVEPORT, La. (KSLA) - The Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE) announced Wednesday, Aug. 4 the release of new Louisiana Educational Assessment Program (LEAP 2025) data. This is the first large-scale snapshot of statewide student performance in nearly two years.

The information provides student performance indicators in English, math, science and social studies and allows school systems to see the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on student achievement.

LEAP 2025 Results

Grades 3-8

  • From 2019 to 2021, the number of students scoring Mastery or above saw a decrease of 5 percentage points. This decrease was felt across all grade levels, content areas and student subgroups.
  • Simultaneously, learning gaps deepened, as evidenced by a 5 percentage point increase in the number of students scoring Unsatisfactory.
  • This disproportionately impacted: Economically disadvantaged students, students in the earlier tested grades (e.g., grades 3 and 4), scores earned in mathematics

Grades 9-12

  • Across all subjects, the number of students scoring Mastery and above declined by 5 percentage points since 2019.
  • In each individual subject, the number of students scoring Mastery and above has decreased since 2019.
  • Algebra I saw the greatest decline (-9 percentage points) from 2019 - 2021, and English II had the smallest decline (-2 percentage points).

“In the face of immense adversity, students, teachers, administrators and parents showed unwavering resiliency, demonstrating a deep commitment to both safety and learning,” said State Superintendent of Education, Dr. Cade Brumley. “This LEAP 2025 data will be invaluable in guiding our instructional, policy, and resource allocation decisions as we recover and accelerate from this unprecedented interruption to student learning.”

The Caddo Parish School District saw a 5 point decline across all subjects in elementary and middle school grades and a 4-percentage point decline at the high school level across all tested subjects. The district says it’s student performance declines were similar to or less than declines seen statewide including in some of Louisiana’s largest school systems including Jefferson (5-point decline), East Baton Rouge (6-point decline) and Orleans (6-point decline).

“I think COVID-19 had a huge impact,” Caddo Superintendent Dr. Lamar Goree said. “As we prepare to start school again while still being impacted from COVID-19 it would be unrealistic to believe there was not a significant impact on how this would affect children and their performance on a state-assessment test. When you think about the year we exited school we were not assessed that year.

“So we go through this virtual transition, we do virtual summer, and looking at last year where, at certain points, percentages as large as 30% of our students were either learning virtual or using the hybrid model. It would be unrealistic to believe that would not affect performance. This is one of the main reasons why we are stressing the importance of learning from our past and making sure we are taking care of every advantage to mitigate the virus and return children to in-person learning.”

Classrooms in Louisiana closed nine weeks early in March 2020 during the early stages of the pandemic. The 2020-21 school year featured a mixture of in-person classes, distance learning, and a hybrid model. At the end of the year about 75% of students across the state were attending classes in person.

Goree says one thing they learned from the last year was integrating technology.

“We utilized technology to enrich the learning experience for children,” Goree said. “I do believe technology is here to stay. I do believe our work with our learning management system and how we help students and families to organize work and to organize the learning process will be better as a result of COVID. I do believe that even as we look at the data we received, we are looking at this and I am stressing that this is a guiding body of data. This is what we will use to provide our students with the skills they need to accelerate their learning so we can ensure they are competitive as they continue to matriculate through their K-12 education.”

The data affirms a large number of students lost ground across English, math, science and social studies content areas as a result of the pandemic.

Across Louisiana, LEAP 2025 data indicated student achievement was greatly impacted by the amount of time students spent learning virtually with in-person learning accounting for increased student performance.

Echoing statewide trends, Caddo’s greatest losses in student achievement were seen with economically disadvantaged students, students of color and students with disabilities.

“One thing that was obvious from the onset of this pandemic and something that I feel like my school board can be proud of is our commitment to equity an opportunity. By that I mean this is really speaking to the things we have done for the last eight years; to make sure that regardless of your zip code, you had those things you needed to be successful at school. I will agree with you that this pandemic once again, and if we only look at the digital divide as far as access to technology and high speed internet, it was obvious that children of privilege were at an advantage in these spaces. So I really commend this board, even before the pandemic, was committed to closing those gaps. I do believe this pandemic though has presented just another clear message that those gaps exist and we have to continue to aggressively work towards closing those gaps. The equity conversation has very much been a priority as we have looked at our Accelerate Caddo program,” Goree said.

In anticipation of the LEAP 2025 results and using individual student performance data collected throughout the school year, Caddo unveiled in April its Accelerate Caddo plan.

The plan, which is supported by federal stimulus dollars, doubled the amount of time students in targeted grades will receive daily math instruction, provides tailored teacher training to address literacy and builds on proven strategies with classroom technology to provide real-time, data-driven instruction designed to immediately address individual student learning needs.

Goree’s message to the district: they’re ready to get kids back in the classrooms.

“We will do everything we can to protect that and to provide every child with the opportunity to come back into the school building,” he said.

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