CHARLESTON COUNTY, S.C. (WCBD) – When school started again in September following a tumultuous end to the previous school year, parents, teachers, and administrators all knew some previous gains would be lost.
The state requires a baseline assessment within the first 10 days of school. The assessments are different depending on the school district, but they all determine a student’s readiness for the current grade level. At the start of the 2020 school year, students across the board proved what we feared was true: the ‘COVID slide’ is real and there is ground to be made up.
District officials are quick to point out that these tests are just a data point in a larger picture, but still can’t be brushed aside.
Charleston County School District (CCSD) officials cited a few examples of concern when comparing second grade scores from 2019 to 2020. This year, nearly 60% scored below the national average in the reading assessment. Last year, 52% scored above that median score.
Math scores in that same group was described by CCSD Superintendent, Dr. Gerritta Postlewait as “worrisome” while presenting the test results to the board of trustees.
While not surprising, CCSD Chief Academic Officer Karolyn Belcher says it is concerning:
“We saw much bigger gaps than we had historically between where our third graders are now and we’re just overall down in math at a much more significant level,” said Belcher. “The good news on that front is math generally moves faster when given additional focus and instruction, and we’re more likely to see improvement in math more quickly than in ELA (English Language Arts).”
Belcher says all is not lost. Everyone across the country is experiencing similar setbacks.
Berkeley County and Dorchester District Two officials say their initial assessments also indicated some setbacks. Much like CCSD they’re encouraging people to take the stats as they are: initial data in a much bigger story.
They also point to the lack of consistency in how the tests were given. Some kids in school, some at home, and that can have a big impact on performance.
Now, educators are working to fill in the gaps, armed with a better understanding of how to navigate learning in a COVID-19 era, and a roadmap to getting our kids back on track.
Belcher says parents should be thinking of this as a two-year process to get caught up.
“It’s a marathon and not a sprint. We’re going to catch up and it’s ok if it’s going to take two years, let’s just make sure we’re on track for those two years,” said Belcher.
CCSD is working on plans that Belcher says will include a “robust” summer school program, launching learning cohorts for the parts of the district that still don’t have most kids back in the classroom.
The administration is also fine-tuning the curriculum based on student needs.
All districts are doing another round of testing in November and December and they say that will provide a clearer picture.
“I would say we are very guarded right now,” said Thad Schmenk, Director of Assessment and Accountability at DD2.”Our teachers are doing incredible work, and we are really instruction-heavy right now.”
Some good news from the initial testing from all three districts is the scoring from high schoolers. Being out of the classroom appeared to have little impact on their scores year over year. CCSD even touted an increase in the numbers of students in advanced placement, and those taking dual-enrollment courses.