The California Department of Education released assessment data today that provide further evidence of the impact of COVID-19 on student academic achievement and underscore the urgency of continuing to address student needs through focused efforts such as expanded learning time and learning acceleration strategies.
Statewide, the percentage of students meeting or exceeding standards on the 2022 Smarter Balanced summative assessments declined by 4 percentage points (from 51 percent to 47 percent) for English language arts (ELA) and 7 percentage points (from 40 percent to 33 percent) for mathematics when compared to students who took the tests in 2018–19—before the pandemic. The results released today include California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) and the English Language Proficiency Assessments for California (ELPAC) data.
However, a comparison with data from the state’s 2020–21 ELA and mathematics assessments suggests that recovery may already be underway. In the spring of 2021, about 25 percent of students in grades three through eight and eleven—or about 740,000 students—participated in the Smarter Balanced Summative Assessments for ELA and mathematics. An analysis of that cohort—looking at the same students who took the test in 2021 and comparing their results to 2022—showed steeper-than-normal achievement gains at most grade levels, a hopeful sign that the state’s robust investments in accelerating learning are paying off.
The release today follows the earlier posting of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) results in reading and math for fourth- and eighth-graders nationwide. Like most of the country, California’s NAEP math scores declined from 2019 to 2022, though not by as much as the average drop nationally. In reading, California fourth graders’ scores also experienced a small decline that was less than the drop nationally. Of particular note: California eighth graders held steady with no decline in reading over the 2019 NAEP while the nation as a whole saw a drop.
As a result, California moved up in NAEP’s state-by-state ordering in both math and reading. In addition, Los Angeles Unified School District was the only Trial Urban District Assessment participant to show significant gains in grade eight reading.
“These baseline data underscore what many of us know: that the road to recovery is long and our students will need sustained support over many years,” said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond. “California has worked proactively to provide additional resources to help our students beyond 2024, when the federal relief funding expires. Through the $7.9 billion Learning Recovery Block Grant available to schools in this year’s state budget, $4 billion in the Expanded Learning Opportunities Program, and $250 million for literacy coaches for our most vulnerable students, the CDE will continue to work with schools so they identify the right tools and resources to address academic, behavioral, and mental health needs.”
Statewide 2022 Scores Decline from Pre-Pandemic Levels, Some Bright Spots
State data released today come from the spring 2022 administration of the ELPAC and CAASPP, which includes Smarter Balanced Summative Assessments for ELA and mathematics, the California Alternate Assessments (CAAs) for ELA and mathematics, and the California Spanish Assessment.
The 2022 assessment administration marked the return to full statewide participation in CAASPP and ELPAC testing for the first time since 2019.
For ELA and mathematics, lower grades saw larger differentials from 2019 than higher grades.
For the California Science Test (CAST), student scores were generally consistent with pre-pandemic levels, with small increases for some groups in some grades and small decreases in others.
For CAAs for ELA and mathematics, results were consistent with prior years.
For the Summative ELPAC, English learners in grades five through twelve performed better in 2022 than in 2019, while lower grades tested showed slight declines. The percentage of students overall achieving at the highest performance level—indicating they have well-developed oral and written English language skills—was 16 percent in 2018–19, decreasing to 14 percent in 2020–21 and returning to 16 percent in 2021–22. Increases in 2021–22 were seen in nearly all grade levels and were especially strong at grade twelve.
While Limited in Scope, 2022 Cohort Analysis Shows Marked Improvement from Prior Year, Suggesting Acceleration Efforts Are Working
The increases in matched cohort student scores in ELA and mathematics between 2020–21 and 2021–22 suggest that the state’s focus on learning recovery is working and critical to helping all students excel and thrive in years to come. More specific details about the Two-Year Matched Cohort Analysis are available in the Interpretation Guide to the 2021–22 Statewide Assessment Results document on the CDE California Assessment Results News Release web page.
Since 2021, California has invested $4.4 billion one-time and $4 billion ongoing in state funds in expanding learning opportunities beyond traditional school hours and $7.9 billion in the Learning Recovery Block Grant to fund such programs as high-dose tutoring.
“Now is not the time to take our foot off the accelerator when it comes to doing everything we can to help all our students progress toward mastery of our learning standards and thrive in every way in school,” said California State Board of Education President Linda Darling-Hammond. “California’s investments in important initiatives such as high-dose tutoring, professional development for teachers, and expanded learning time, and in such areas as mental health and wellness, are critical to lifting up academic performance across the board while supporting students’ well-being.”
Considering Context of Assessment Results
Data from the 2021–22 spring assessments should be considered “baseline data” for measuring student progress going forward due to the challenges presented by the pandemic.
In the 2019–20 school year—a year in which schools quickly pivoted to remote learning after the discovery of COVID-19 in California—the U.S. Department of Education waived all testing requirements.
To further prevent the spread of virus before the development and widespread distribution of vaccines, most students learned from home for most of 2020–21 and returned to campuses in the spring either full-time or with hybrid (in-class and remote) instruction.
In the 2020–21 school year, the U.S. Department of Education required states to administer statewide academic assessments in ELA, mathematics, and science as well as the English language proficiency assessments—with some flexibilities. Districts that were unable to administer the statewide summative assessment in 2020–21, because it was not a viable option due to factors related to COVID-19, gauged student learning through locally selected assessments that met certain requirements.
In addition to these flexibilities, the California State Board of Education also approved use of adjusted test blueprints for the Smarter Balanced ELA and math tests, mindful of the need to maximize instructional time to accelerate learning and to minimize difficulties in online testing conditions.
Assessment results for the CAASPP and ELPAC are available to the public on the Test Results for California’s Assessments website.
To provide essential background and factors to consider when interpreting California’s 2021–22 statewide assessment results, the CDE created the Interpretation Guide to the 2021–22 Statewide Assessment Results, which can be found on the CDE California Assessment Results News Release web page.
NAEP results, including those for California and all other states, are available on The Nation’s Report Card website.