Was COVID-era school really that bad? N.J. education is in a state of emergency, one official says. – NJ.com

The new school data is not perfect. It’s not complete. And it can’t be directly compared to any testing the state has done.

But New Jersey has found that the coronavirus pandemic left 1 in 3 students “below grade level” in math and English, according to local assessment results reported to the state Department of Education.

The department presented its findings to the state Board of Education on Wednesday, about two weeks after releasing the data to school districts in a memo.

The results essentially confirm what the state found in the fall after a small sample of students took a new standardized test to quantify pandemic-related learning loss. However, state officials cautioned against sweeping conclusions because the data is based on a wide array of tests administered at different times in different districts.

“While districts may have internal validity within the assessment tools they use, we really can’t make that claim universally for all the data collected due to the variance we saw in the assessments types,” said Lisa Gleason, assistant commissioner of Academics and Performance.

The results come from local assessments given between mid-November and mid-February. The state found:

  • 37% of students tested in English are below grade level.
  • 37% of students tested in math are below grade level.
  • Students of color and economically disadvantaged students were significantly more likely to be behind.

“Looking at this data, we are really in a state of emergency in New Jersey when it comes to our kids and our education,” said Andy Mulvihill, vice president of the state Board of Education. “This pandemic and keeping the kids out of school and remote learning seems to have done tremendous damage.”

Angelica Allen-McMillan, the acting state education commissioner, said the data shouldn’t overshadow the success some students had in remote learning.

“I do need to state publicly that it has not been a drain for everyone. It has not been a failure for everyone,” she said. “I think we need to be sure that that balanced message is communicated.”

The state will use the data to help shape support and interventions for schools, she said.

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Adam Clark may be reached at [email protected]. Have a news tip or a story idea about New Jersey schools? Send it here.