How the pandemic impacted school enrollment and math scores

This post first appeared on San Gabriel Valley Tribune - California News on . You can read the original article here.

Enrollment shift: How the global pandemic has had an impact on public education in California

EdSource.org has been tracking education in California since 1977. The following data on enrollment by region was posted in late March.

For two decades, enrollment in California in kindergarten through 12th grade was stable, hovering between 6.1 million and 6.2 million students. There were sharp enrollment declines in coastal counties – the rural north and urban Los Angeles and Orange counties, where housing prices outpaced incomes – and sharp increases inland, as families moved east to bigger lots and cheaper homes.

Enrollments rose between 16.6% and 26.2% in “Superior California,” which includes the Sacramento area and its exurbs; the Inland Empire; and the northern and southern San Joaquin Valley regions.

In 2020-21, the first full year of the pandemic, enrollment fell by 160,000 statewide, primarily among the youngest students, as parents in many districts didn’t enroll kindergartners and first graders. How many will return to school is a critical, unanswered question. But state demographers are projecting a further decline in enrollment by 2030, even with a post-pandemic recovery.

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The COVID-19 effect on California’s declining math scores

Another EdSource.org report released on Tuesday highlights low math scores across the state. Average math scores of California’s eighth graders on standardized tests in 2021 were in line with the knowledge and skills of fifth-graders, according to a new analysis of the state’s Smarter Balanced tests.

The analysis, which looks at performance over time, shows that students fell behind each year incrementally even before the pandemic, starting in third grade when tests were first given.

Progress completely stalled last year, when most students were in remote learning.

State officials and others caution against over-interpreting the 2021 test scores and against comparing them with prior years’.

Fewer than one-quarter of students in grades three through eight and 11 took the tests. Because of the pandemic, the state gave districts the choice of giving Smarter Balanced or a local assessment; as a result, only 24% of students statewide took the Smarter Balanced test.

Last year, the average scores of all groups in eighth grade were below standard except for Asian students, the only group whose scores significantly increased last year

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The Smarter Balanced test was not given in 2020.

Reading and writing scores were only slightly below grade-level standards and took a small dip in 2021.