Missouri student test scores still lag behind pre-pandemic levels

Photo of student taking a test (Photo courtesy Ben Mullins on Unsplash)
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(Missouri Independent) – A day after preliminary test scores showed Missouri students’ performance on standardized tests have not bounced back from the pandemic, education advocacy groups and parents urged state lawmakers to take a comprehensive approach to craft accountability measures for schools.

On Tuesday, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education released preliminary test scores for the 2021-22 school year showing that, just like last year, fewer than half of Missouri students statewide passed with proficient and advanced scores across subjects.

There were small improvements compared to results from the 2020-21 school year, with 39% of students proficient or advanced in math — an increase in four percentage points, and 38% of students proficient or advanced in science — an increase of one percentage point. However, both scores remained below the 42% of students testing proficient or advanced in both subjects in 2019. 

Meanwhile, students’ performance slightly declined in English language arts, with a 2 percentage point drop to 43% compared to last year. In social studies, ​​40% of students tested proficient or advanced.

“You will hear from the school leaders, teachers across the state that in many ways last year was more challenging than even the prior year for them,” Commissioner of Education Margie Vandeven told the State Board of Education during its Tuesday meeting.

Across the state, building closures and extended absences marked the past year as schools still battled with the coronavirus, and Vandeven said the department aims to drive resources to populations that were most significantly impacted.

However, test scores won’t be factoring into schools’ accreditations until 2024 when the department will make decisions under the sixth iteration of the Missouri School Improvement Program, or MSIP-6. The new accountability metrics will score districts 70% on performance and 30% on continuous improvement.

The current accountability process creates a high-stakes environment for schools, Otto Fajen, the legislative director for the Missouri National Education Association, told members of the Senate Interim Committee on Education during a hearing on Wednesday.

“The process we have now if you think about accreditation, we turn a whole district into one number. And then there are very serious consequences that can attach to that number,” Fajen said, such as district-funded student transfers to accredited districts.

(Photo courtesy Ben Mullins on Unsplash)

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Tessa Weinberg


Tessa Weinberg covers education, health care, and the legislature. She previously covered the Missouri statehouse for The Kansas City Star and The Columbia Missourian, where her reporting into social media use by the governor prompted an investigation by the Attorney General’s office. She most recently covered state government in Texas for The Fort Worth Star-Telegram.