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Cedar Rapids schools see dip in standardized testing scores, attributed to the pandemic, derecho
African American students, English Language learners and students with Individualized Educational Plans have bigger achievement gap compared with peers
CEDAR RAPIDS — The Cedar Rapids Community School District saw drops in achievement scores in reading and math at each grade level that took the Iowa Statewide Assessment of Student Progress last spring when compared with 2019 — which educators say reflects a loss of instructional time last year.
The Iowa Statewide Assessment of Student Progress is a test taken by students in grades three through 11 once a year to measure performance in English Language Arts, math and science. Students were not tested in 2020 because of the pandemic.
Officials attribute the drop in achievement to loss of instructional time because of the pandemic and the August 2020 derecho, and as both students and teachers had to adapt to remote learning.
The district also switched to the online version of the ISASP, which comes with a “pretty common” dip in scores, said John Rice, Cedar Rapids’ executive director of teaching and learning.
The most significant declines in Cedar Rapids were in third grade reading and ninth grade math. These are the average results for Cedar Rapids students on the ISASP test:
- 59 percent proficient in English Language Arts
- 50 percent in math
- and 49 percent in science
This is slightly down from the state average of 69 percent in English Language Arts, 66 percent in math and 61 percent in science.
African American students have an achievement gap of almost 40 percentage points in each category compared with their white peers, scoring 32 percent in English Language Arts, 22 percent in math and 20 percent in science.
There is even a bigger gap for English Language Learner students compared with their non-English Language Learner peers. English Language Learners scored 14 percent in English Language Arts, 8 percent in math and 8 percent in science.
Students with Individualized Education Plans scored 15 percent in Language Arts, 15 percent in math and 14 percent in science.
During the 2018-2019 school year, district officials set a goal of at least 80 percent of students scoring proficient or advanced on the assessment in English Language Arts, math and science by June 2022. At the time, the district had an average of 70 percent in assessment scores for eight years in a row.
A growth of 20 percentage points “may not be feasible this year,” Rice said.
The district also has a goal of decreasing the gaps in proficiency rates — race, English Language Learner status, and students with an Individualized Educational Plan — by 20 percentage points by June 2022.
The 80 percent goal for June 2022, which was set before the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, is “pretty extreme,” school board member Jennifer Borcherding said.
“I would like us as a district to consider to be a little flexible on those goals — all academic goals for growth — just so we’re not overwhelming our staff who are already at capacity.”
There is “significant ground” to make up for the district to meet the 80 percent goal, Rice said. “We want to be able to address these achievement gaps as quickly as possible.” To do this, educators will continue to focus on professional learning — a time for teachers to work together to find ways to better support their students, Rice said.
Another focus will be family engagement work, including at least 15-minute phone calls to parents or guardians once a month.
School board President Nancy Humbles said the district is going to have to make “major improvements to get everyone up to speed.”
Borcherding noted that Cedar Rapids students are “not alone in this. It’s the state, the nation, the world. While the numbers don’t look fantastic, it’s reflective of the environment we’re living in.”
Across the state, Iowa’s reading results varied considerably across grade levels compared with 2019, the first year the test was offered to students.
Most grade levels improved while third-graders scores dropped 14.8 percentage points. Iowa’s math scores dropped in every tested grade level compared with 2019.
Clear Creek Amana High School
Clear Creek Amana High School students scored in the 80th percentile for grades nine through 11. Overall, students in the district scored an average of 8.6 to 12.3 percentage points higher than the state average proficiency, and not one grade level fell below state proficiency.
These are the results for Clear Creek Amana High students on the ISASP test:
- Ninth-graders scored 86 percent proficient in English Language Arts and 72 percent proficient in math.
- Tenth graders scored 87 percent proficient in English Language Arts, 74 percent proficient in math and 74 percent proficient in science.
- And 11th-graders scored 85 percent proficient in English Language arts and 70 percent proficient in math.
Only 10th-graders take the science assessment.
“The spring ISASP results at the high school were nothing short of amazing,” high school Principal Mark Moody said. “This is a testament that despite the daily challenges of last year, the entire staff set the tone that we can overcome those challenges we were facing and keep the focus on learning.”
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