© 2024 Connecticut Public

FCC Public Inspection Files:
WPKT · WRLI-FM · WEDW-FM · Public Files Contact
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Assessment results show the pandemic continues to hurt Connecticut student achievement

Students at Watertown High School arrive for their first day back on August 27, 2021. Tony Spinelli/Connecticut Public
Tony Spinelli
Connecticut Public
Students at Watertown High School arrive for their first day back on Aug. 27, 2021.

The pandemic may be fading as a public health crisis, but it is still having a negative effect on student achievement in Connecticut.

State officials released new data Thursday that show Connecticut student achievement is still below pre-pandemic levels. And even though there is some room for optimism, it’s hard to ignore this: Last year’s test data is lower than the three most recent pre-pandemic years, and that’s true for students across the board – those with high needs and those without.

Specifically, the state estimates that students in fourth and fifth grades may be two to three months behind where they would have been had there not been a pandemic. Middle schoolers may be five to seven months behind in English language arts and a year or more behind in math.

“The results show signs of learning acceleration and recovery, however, student achievement still lags the pre-pandemic level,” state Education Commissioner Charlene M. Russell-Tucker said at a news conference Thursday. “We all know that 2021-22 was still far from a normal school year. Student and staff illnesses due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting quarantines and isolations continued to cause significant learning disruptions.”

The statewide testing indicators show a drop of roughly 6 to 8 percentage points in English language arts and math and around 4 percentage points in science. The state data also show that students identifying as Asian and white had higher test scores than their Black and Hispanic peers.

Ajit Gopalakrishnan, the department’s chief performance officer, said the state tracks two things — achievement and the pace of learning.

“In ’21-22, what we see is the achievement really lags, as the commissioner mentioned, the pre-pandemic years,” he said. “So, we still have a lot of work to do. But there are definitely signs of recovery and acceleration.”

If there is good news, it’s that the pace of student learning increased last year.

The data show that math test scores in most grades grew slightly faster than they did a few years back. But the rate of growth will have to accelerate significantly if the gaps in achievement are to be closed.

The state highlighted various projects to improve testing results, from funding to curriculum to staff training. It also highlighted districts that are holding their own. Nate Quesnel, East Hartford’s school superintendent, said a big factor is the mindset of the educators on the ground.

“We look at this data, this data tells us that that is what’s going to be needed to continue to lift up the future of these kids,” he said.

Updated: August 25, 2022 at 3:56 PM EDT
This story has been updated.
Jeff Cohen started in newspapers in 2001 and joined Connecticut Public in 2010, where he worked as a reporter and fill-in host. In 2017, he was named news director. Then, in 2022, he became a senior enterprise reporter.

Stand up for civility

This news story is funded in large part by Connecticut Public’s Members — listeners, viewers, and readers like you who value fact-based journalism and trustworthy information.

We hope their support inspires you to donate so that we can continue telling stories that inform, educate, and inspire you and your neighbors. As a community-supported public media service, Connecticut Public has relied on donor support for more than 50 years.

Your donation today will allow us to continue this work on your behalf. Give today at any amount and join the 50,000 members who are building a better—and more civil—Connecticut to live, work, and play.