Students at a third grade class summer school in a file photo. (Tim Boyle/Getty Images)
California students have made little academic progress since the COVID-19 pandemic caused a drop in test scores, according to the state’s most recent academic standard test results.
California’s Smarter Balanced Test results, published Oct. 18, showed only a slight improvement in math as well as a slight decline in English language arts. Such tests are given to students in grades 3 through 8, as well as grade 11.
Just over one-third—or 34.6 percent—of California students met or exceeded math standards this year, up 1.2 percent compared to last year.
Meanwhile, 46.7 percent of students met or exceeded English language arts standards in 2023 down from 47.1 percent in 2022.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, 39.8 percent of students met math standards in 2019, while 51.7 percent met English language standards.
English language learner students’ overall performance also did not change significantly—just a 0.4 percentage decrease from 47.1 percent in 2022 to 46.7 percent in 2023.
However, state education officials maintained that such numbers are “promising” in lieu of the state’s students’ demographics.
The number of socioeconomically disadvantaged students who were tested increased from 60 percent in 2022 to 63 percent in 2023, while the number of homeless and foster care students also grew from last year.
Officials also emphasized the state’s biggest improvement: a five percent drop in chronically absent students compared to last year, meaning those who miss more than 10 percent of school days.
The rate of such students dropped from 30 percent in 2022 to 24.9 percent in 2023.
“These results suggest that California’s public schools are beginning to turn the corner on pandemic recovery, with gains on most assessments and a substantial reduction in chronic absenteeism, especially for our most vulnerable groups of students,” said Linda Darling-Hammond, State Board of Education President, in an Oct. 18 statement.
Ms. Darling-Hammond noted education investments made by the state over the past several years, including a $7.9 billion Learning Recovery Emergency Block Grant in 2022 to fund accelerated learning initiatives over the next six years, and a $3.6 billion grant for arts, music, and instructional materials, also funded in 2022.
In the same statement, Chief Deputy Superintendent of Public Instruction Mary Nicely said the data shows the need for continued support for the state’s education agencies.
“These data show signs of improvement for our students, but we know that our students and local educational agencies will continue to need sustained support,” Ms. Nicely said.
She additionally said as federal relief funding expires, California has set aside billions of dollars for interventions for students, including an additional $300 million for those that are most vulnerable.
“The [state education department] is developing strategies to identify measurable outcomes based on these historic investments and is working on more alignment and cohesion of resources to promote growth and improvements in the future,” she said.