PSBA cautions against misinterpretation of 2021 state assessment scores

Mechanicsburg, PA (March 4, 2022) – The Pennsylvania School Boards Association (PSBA) acknowledges today’s release by the PA Department of Education (PDE) of the 2021 statewide assessment results, emphasizing that the impact of extensive pandemic-related disruptions makes use of the data to draw conclusions about the performance of school districts during the pandemic invalid and inappropriate.

The association notes that since the beginning of the pandemic, school leaders and teachers have been confronted with a set of unparalleled challenges in delivering robust learning opportunities while balancing the health and safety of students and staff. As positive COVID-19 cases among students, staff, and communities continued to fluctuate, school districts were forced to continue making changes to their instructional models due to the pandemic.

“There is no doubt that Pennsylvania students have faced considerable learning challenges over the past few school years. As schools were forced to change their instructional models from in-person to virtual or hybrid, students were unable to benefit from a consistent educational approach. This inconsistency, along with the impact of other factors on students such as social isolation and other mental stressors are legitimate factors that make comparison of the 2021 state assessment results between schools, across districts or across school years improper and inaccurate,” said PSBA CEO Nathan G. Mains.

As the pandemic subsides, school districts have been working tirelessly to address the academic impacts caused by the reduction of face-to-face instructional time. Our public schools are making every effort to identify and address any academic regression that may have resulted from lost or incomplete learning opportunities during the pandemic using a variety of strategies such as diagnostic testing, tutoring, summer school, conversations with parents and students, increased assistance available from teachers and paraprofessionals, and increased training and supports for teachers.

While 2021 state assessment results may have some usefulness for evaluating academic impacts within a given school or school entity, they should not be used to make generalized statements or determinations about the performance of public school students. PSBA believes that a more accurate picture of the pandemic’s impact on learning is through diagnostic assessments administered locally by each child’s school.

“One fact that is clear though is that full time virtual instruction overwhelmingly does not work for all students. As we are now back to in person learning, students are recovering from any learning losses incurred. Schools are also dealing with mental health needs and other challenges as we move from a moment in time that has had an unprecedented impact on our kids,” Mains added.

As school districts move forward, it will be more imperative than ever before for the state to provide students and districts with the needed resources to help recover from the pandemic and make the gains necessary for greater academic achievement and mental wellbeing.

Media contact for PSBA:
Mackenzie Arcuri
Senior Manager of Media Relations and Strategy
Pennsylvania School Boards Association

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