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Testing shows massive learning loss for Maryland students

{p}Baltimore City Schools CEO Sonja Santelises during a January 2021 news conference (WBFF){/p}

Baltimore City Schools CEO Sonja Santelises during a January 2021 news conference (WBFF)

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BALTIMORE (WBFF) — The most recent state test scores show Maryland students experienced a stunning amount of learning loss from the COVID-19 shutdowns.

The pandemic created a debate over education. On one side, some parents, and Baltimore City Schools CEO Sonja Santelises, were saying students need to be learning in person.

“The gap is getting wider,” Amy Adams, a parent in Baltimore County, said in October 2020.

“We are not raising the bar. We are lowering the bar,” added Sara Russell, another parent in Baltimore County who spoke with WBFF in 2020.

During a news conference in January 2021, Santelises supported a return to the classroom, saying “To ignore that — we do have families that want an in-person option — would be irresponsible.”

But on the other side of the debate were the teachers unions and those fighting to keep learning virtual.

“We don’t want anyone forced back into buildings until it’s safe,” Diamonte Brown, the president of the Baltimore Teachers Union, said back in July 2021.

With students learning at home for more than a year, there were expected setbacks. Now, recently released state testing data shows just how far behind students have fallen. The scores are from the 2021 Maryland Comprehensive Assessment Program, or MCAP, which is the first standardized state test students have taken since the pandemic began.

Because of the pandemic, students took a shortened test and were tested in the fall instead of the spring. They took the assessment for a grade level below their current grade, meaning fourth-graders took the third-grade assessment.

In Baltimore City, less than 7% of students tested in third- through fifth-grade math scored proficient. That means more than 93% are not proficient in math. The results for English language arts are just as alarming. The data shows 91% of students tested in third through fifth grade are not proficient.

The learning loss appears to be a problem across the state. About 81% of all Maryland students tested in grades three through five are not proficient in math, and 76% are not proficient in English language arts.

Scores for middle school students showed the same pattern. In Baltimore City, at least 95% of the students tested in seventh and eighth grades were not proficient in math. Throughout the state, 94% were not proficient in seventh or eighth-grade math.

The middle school scores are better in English language arts, but in Baltimore City, it’s about 81% are not proficient.

MCAP testing is new. Maryland students used to take a different test, which makes it difficult to compare how they did in previous years, before the pandemic. However, the state's Department of Education does confirm learning loss occurred between 2019 and 2021, reporting a drop of nearly nine percentage points in English and 18 percentage points in math for third- through eighth-graders.

“We are keenly aware of the learning loss many students have experienced due to the ongoing pandemic," Baltimore City Schools said in a statement.

The statement went on to say city schools are creating student learning plans “that support accelerated academic recovery through different methods” including tutoring, small group instruction, and extended learning for students not at grade level.

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State and city teachers union did not respond to a request for comment on the data.

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