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Student proficiency declines

‘Missed learning’ leads to lower assessment scores

By MEGHAN BRADBURY - | Sep 23, 2021

The spring assessment results for the School District of Lee County indicated that there was “missed learning,” and a decline in proficiency, but at a lower rate than the state.

Spring Assessment results

Accountability, Research & Assessments Director Dr. Matt Kaye said the 2021 assessment series was administered under unique circumstances. On March 13, a brief closure of schools was issued, which turned into the remainder of the fourth quarter, forcing students to distance learning from home due to the pandemic, he said.

The school district came back and adapted without any real precedent and offered different learning models — face-to-face, Lee Home Connect and Lee Virtual School.

The district spent a lot of time encouraging student participation through communication and transportation for the spring statewide assessment, which resulted in 95 percent tested for Spring 2021.

After diving into national research, one of the terms being used was “missed learning,” rather than learning loss. Missed learning means there is progress being made, but not at the usual speed or volume.

“There is indication that there was learning, but not at the extent we see year-to-year,” Kaye said. “The results would be below prior years without much context to compare.”

When the district began analyzing their data it showed that missed learning tended to have a higher impact on younger, elementary, aged students, as well as students with less access to in-person learning and those students lacking consistent high quality technology. The data also pointed to a higher impact of missed learning in mathematics.

That data, Kaye said lead to two key questions, how severe was the “missed learning” within Lee County compared to the state and how did students in Lee County perform on statewide assessments based on learning modalities. He said there was a decline across the categories, which is consistent with both state and national levels.

Kaye said when looking at English Language Arts in grades three through five, their gap by the state grew by 1 percentage point and for students in ninth and tenth grade by 2 points.

Proficiency percentages

For third through fifth grade ELA proficiency, the district tested 50 percent proficient, compared to 53 percent proficient for the state. For 2019, the same grades had 55 percent proficiency compared to 57 percent for the state.

Forty-nine percent of students in sixth through eighth grade were proficient in ELA, compared to 51 percent for the state. The same grades had a 53 percentage proficiency in 2019, compared to the states 54 percent.

The state had 50 percent proficiency for grades ninth and 10th, compared to the district’s 48 percent proficiency. In 2019, 50 percent of ninth and tenth graders were proficient in ELA, compared to the states 54 percent.

For math, Kaye said there was previously a 2-point gap, which has now evened out with the sate.

In 2021, third through fifth grade students were 52 percent proficient in math, the same as the state. In 2019, 60 percent of district’s students were proficient, compared to 62 percent for the state.

Again in grades sixth through eighth, there was 50 percent proficiency in math for the district and state, compared to 61 percent proficiency in 2019 for the district and 59 percent proficiency for the state.

The numbers slid for geometry proficiency with 46 percent of Lee County students proficient, compared to 49 percent in 2019. In 2019 the state proficiency was 57 percent, compared to 46 percent in 2021.

In algebra the district had 46 percent proficiency, compared to the states 47 percent. In 2019, the district had 58 percent proficiency in algebra, compared to 60 percent proficiency for the state.

For science, Kaye said biology stood out the most with a 5 point narrowing of the state gap. In 2021, there was 55 percent proficiency for the district, the same as 2019, compared to the states 62 percent for 2021 and 67 percent proficiency in 2019.

“The state had a decline in proficiency in biology, but Lee County did not. It helped improve its gap to the state average,” he said.

For social studies the gap between the district and the state shrunk. For civics, there was 63 percent proficiency for the district, compared to 66 percent in 2019. The state had 64 percent proficiency in 2021, compared to 71 percent proficiency for 2019.

Students testing in U.S. history were 59 percent proficient in 2021, compared to 62 percent in 2021. The state had 63 percent proficiency in U.S. history, compared to 69 percent in 2019.

Kaye said overall the district scored lower than the state average by proficiency, but at a lesser decline.

“Maybe not a matching, or exceeding proficiency, but mitigation efforts may have been successful in some of these areas where we saw the negative impact at the state level was more severe than at the district level,” he said. “There was missed learning and declines in student proficiency in Lee County with spring assessments.”

Board member Gwyn Gittens asked how the digital divide affected missed learning.

“That digital divide piece is so challenging to us. It has shown a drastic difference in an area where there are fewer challenges digitally and those with more challenges. They started out with a wider achievement gap and made it even worse,” she said.

Board Chair Debbie Jordan said even with Chromebooks given to families, and hot spots provided, individuals still could not connect, or ability to connect.

“I do definitely believe there was,” she said of digital divide. “We did do better than most counties.”

The presentation also broke down how students did according to the learning modality they did for an entire year. The data showed that students who had face-to-face instruction for an entire year outperformed their peers, which was most visible at the elementary school level and in mathematics.

The district also had a record high in participation and diploma achievements for advanced courses. Kaye said there was more than 15,000 exams administered and 570 IB and AICE diplomas earned. Of the 15,652 exams administrated, there was a 65 percent passing rate, compared to 70 percent during the 2019-2020 school year.

“One of the reasons I wanted to point that out is because it is a qualifier for the Bright Futures Scholarship. That is 100 percent tuition to any state college or university,” he said. “It’s a substantial impact financially.”

The college and career acceleration trend report showed that for the second year in a row more than 60 percent of graduates had earned an acceleration credit.

Kaye said the district is currently working on a National Development Program, which will support and enrich students who have shown academic success and achievement. He said this fall they will encourage as many juniors as they can to take the PSAT, which will then allow the district to look at those results and other data to develop a student’s profile.

In the spring and summer of 2022, the district will identify cohort of participants and by fiscal year 2023 it will be implemented.

Monitoring Data

School Development Executive Director Shanna Flecha said last year at the third quarter progress monitoring data showed some pretty alarming results due to missed learning.

“We knew we couldn’t wait until the end of July to take drastic action. We went back to our bag of tricks and helped schools that were in trouble. We knew we were going to have to give them additional support,” she said.

Twenty-three schools needed help and received a leader; full-time school nurse; full-time social worker; dean; SEL resource teacher; ELA coach; math coach; science coach and academic support through content coordinators.

“We felt that we needed to take this action knowing they were going to have to fill their classroom teachers first. Unfortunately most of them are still covering classrooms right now because of the Delta variant. We hope these supports will be implemented and original intention happens soon,” Flecha said.

In addition, two schools that are of high concern, Franklin Park and Colonial Elementary, received assistant principals that were a part of a turnaround school previously, as they have the experience of how to make the change.

“They are leading the way at those schools, along with the administration team,” Flecha said.

School Development Executive Director Dr. Marsha Bur said she was at a turnaround school and the focus was not a school at risk, but a school at potential.

“Potential to make significant gains with populations that just need some extra support,” she said. “It forces you to really look at all the pieces of your school and how they all fit together and meet all students. Educating the whole child involves a systematic plan that gives all schools a laser like focus of what they need to do in their buildings.”

The district also is determining the support a school needs through a tiering system. Tier one is the least needy school, while tier three are the most at need. To determine those schools, the district uses TASSEL 2.0, which is used for equitable learning.

Flecha said they have a tiered content support system, which is even more detailed than their original system. They get down to per school, and per content area of who needs assistance.

School Support

School Development Executive Director Clayton Simmons said the reality of what they are facing in the schools is probably the roughest he has ever seen.

“Most of them are in survival mode. Our principals and teachers are working exceptionally hard. All hands on deck with covering,” Simmons said. “We have all of these interventions in place . . . off we go to bring these kids caught up to where we were last year and then wham Delta hit. That is where we are right now. We are making a lot of good plans and making progress. We are all confident we are going to get to where we want to be.”

He said the district’s office has an army of staff that they can send out to the schools and have them available at the drop of a hat.

Simmons shared a chart that showed how help is provided for the 84,000 public school students within the 96 public schools of the district. There are 5,906 teachers, which Simmons said includes TALC personnel, which are not all teachers.

Of the 5,906 teachers, 2,729 are elementary school teachers and 3,015 are secondary teachers.

“That army of people that we have out here is only 23 people that provide support to 5,906 teachers in the district,” Simmons said.

The district level support includes seven learning and leadership teachers, which provide 20 percent instruction, seven elementary coaches and specialists and nine secondary coaches and specialists.

ABCD approach

School Development Executive Director Linda Maere said they began looking at A, B, C and D, with the fourth concentration being added this year. D, dropout prevention, was added, as it should start before high school.

Attendance, A, was examined from both a teacher and student standpoint. Maere said they began looking at if a teacher is late in the morning, as it has impacts on others that are always on time.

“Teachers are in the business because they love teaching students,” she said. “They really looked at what happens when I am absent. No one is going to replace you the same. (Having) a quality teacher in the classroom every day, it was really powerful.”

For those students that are absent, she said they talked about building relationships with them. This piece of the puzzle also includes sharing with parents how a student can make up work while they are out.

Behavior, B, tackles the social and emotional well being of students. Maere said there have been some concerns that students are lashing out because they are frustrated, which has resulted in wrap-around services to form those positive relationships.

They also talked about scheduling students with the right teachers.

“Maybe his elective is the first thing in the morning. It might be a motivator to get him there on time,” she said about being very strategic in planning the master schedule.

Classroom success, C, boiled down to looking at professional learning community and what the kids need to know and how to determine if they understood that information.

“Step three is the how. How are you going to teach it to them? Having those open dialogues and looking at how you instruct and having a very positive impact once we fully get into each others classrooms like we want to,” Maere said.

Dropout Prevention, D, she said really ties into attendance and behavior. Maere said they really talked about helping one student who disrupts the class, but wants to learn.

“What are we going to do to support that child and the other children that are trying to learn,” she said.