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New data: Just about half of NC students test at grade level in most subjects

Published on: 09/01/2022


Published: 2022-08-31 23:02:00

Updated: 2022-09-01 10:18:39

New data: Just about half of NC students test at grade level in most subjects

Posted August 31, 2022 11:02 p.m. EDT

Updated September 1, 2022 10:18 a.m. EDT

Raleigh, N.C. — Just about half of North Carolina students tested at grade level last spring, a shift downward from pre-pandemic years.

The scores, released by the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction on Thursday, are an indicator of the slowed pace of student learning since the COVID-19 pandemic led to numerous learning disruptions over more than two years across much of the state.

The one exception to the trend: Math 3 test scores among high school students. Last spring, 53.4% of test-takers showed grade-level proficiency, compared to just 46.8% during the 2018-19 school year. At the same time, just 33.1% of Math 1 students passed their tests, down from 41.2%.

During the spring, more than half of students passed 11 of the state’s 21 end-of-grade or end-of-course tests. That’s down from 19 of 21 tests during the 2018-19 school year. In total, about 51.4% of all tests were passed, compared to 58.8% in 2019.

In Wake County, the changes were less dramatic but still negative. The overall percentage of tests passed in 2022 dropped to 61.4%, from 65.2% in 2019. However, the biggest declines were in reading, where the tests themselves changed between the two time periods, so it’s unclear how much of the drop is the result of the test change or an actual decline in mastery.

The district typically performs above the state averages, and like the state, made significant improvements in Math 3. But the district stayed below average in Math 1, with just 30.8% of students passing. The district’s pass rate for all other exams ranged from 52.4% (in 8th grade math) to 79.5% (in 8th grade science).

How North Carolina students fared compared to the rest of the nation isn’t known yet. In October, the federal government will release the National Assessment of Education Progress results for 2021. States often vary in the standardized tests they administer, but the NAEP tests are given and analyzed nationwide every two years.

Test scores from the 2021-22 school year can’t be compared to test scores during the 2020-21 school year, because test participation rates were highly variable school-to-school in spring 2021.

Most tests can be compared to the 2018-19 school year, the most recent year in which full school accountability measures were followed.

Not all tests can be compared to prior years, however. The state adopted new reading tests starting with the 2020-21 school year, so results from 2022 in reading cannot be compared to results from 2019 in reading.

A comparison to the 2018-19 school year would reflect more than two whole school years of pandemic-disrupted learning. While schools were largely in-person last year, pandemic precautions may have resulted in extended student or staff absences.

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