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MCAS Results From 2021 Spring Exam Show Expected Pandemic-Related Drops In Math And English Scores

sMALDEN (CBS) – MCAS results from the 2021 spring exam were released Tuesday and they show an expected learning gap due to the disruption from the pandemic.

"Results show that many more students had gaps in their knowledge of math and, to a lesser extent, English language arts, compared to students in the same grades before the COVID-19 pandemic, and fewer students meet or exceeded grade level expectations," the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) said in a statement.

"The results showed exactly what I think all of us believed we would see," Gov. Charlie Baker said Tuesday of the learning loss. "I think we all have a lot of work to do there."

In the 10th grade math exam, 52 percent of students scored "Meeting Expectations or higher," which is a drop from 59 percent in 2019, the last time the MCAS was given. It was canceled in 2020.

However, the 10th grade English language arts test showed slight improvement with 64 percent of students at "Meeting Expectations or higher" up from 61 percent in 2019.

In grades 3-8, there were drops in both English and math.

In the 2021 exam, 46 percent of those students scored "Meeting Expectations or higher" in English, a drop from 52 percent in 2019.

(WBZ-TV graphic)

The decline was much worse in math, where only 33 percent reached "Meeting Expectations or higher" in 2021. That's a 16 percent drop from 49 percent in 2019.

"The results clearly illustrate how the disrupted school year of remote and hybrid learning impacted students' academic achievement," Secretary of Education James Peyser said in a statement Tuesday.

"The results released today confirm what we all know, our kids struggled during this pandemic, and it will require an all hands on deck approach to ensure we do everything possible to get them caught up," said Boston Public Schools Superintendent Brenda Cassellius.

Parents will get their child's MCAS scores after September 30.

"Families of students who were in grades 3-8 in the spring should keep in mind that those students were given shorter than usual tests, which can cause individual student performance to vary more than usual as compared to previous years," DESE said in its' statement.

Assessment results will be posted here and here.

Massachusetts Teachers Association president Merrie Najimy said in a statement the union "strongly opposed" having districts administer MCAS exams during the COVID pandemic. She said the results underscore why.

"Educators reject the narrative that students have experienced tremendous 'learning loss,' Najimy said. "Rather, they have experienced dislocation and trauma. These issues are what the results demonstrate in cities and towns across the Commonwealth, including communities of color, which have been the hardest hit by the coronavirus."

"There were children that we know for a fact were dealing with shutoffs and evictions during this pandemic, during a moratorium, our families were not safe from them, so I wonder how a child was logging in from a hotel room," said Norieliz DeJesus of Chelsea.

Some experts say the scores give a road map on how to get students back on track.

"It's both predictable and disturbing. We knew there were going to be drops," said Harvard professor and former Secretary of Education Paul Reville. "With this much time away from school and some many kids without even access to remote learning, it's hardly surprising that the results are low."

The state insists the test scores are not being used to hold schools accountable.

In Saugus, "MCAS was a really helpful benchmark together with our own interim assessments. Those together with really checking in with children and making sure that they feel safe and healthy and good at school, that's our approach," said Superintendent Erin McMahon.

On Monday, some lawmakers demanded the Legislature eliminate MCAS as a graduation requirement. The governor disagrees.

"I continue to believe the MCAS exam is a fundamental part of how we diagnose how we're doing and how we keep track of how kids are doing generally," Baker said at an event in Lowell Tuesday.

"I would argue never has the MCAS been more important to families because they're going to want to know what happened to their kids during the pandemic and they're going to want to know in the coming years have they improved or not and what does that look like?, Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Jeff Riley said at DESE's board meeting Tuesday.

The state is getting money from the federal government to fund schools because of the pandemic. Reville said that money should be used to individualize education and meet students where they are, including after school programs and summer school.

For more information on MCAS, click here.

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