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Tests find pandemic played key role in academic regression at Richmond schools

Richmond School Bus 2.png
Posted at 10:57 PM, Nov 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-08 23:26:52-05

RICHMOND, Va. -- Results from testing assessments this past fall reveal that the pandemic has played a crucial role in academic regression among students in Richmond Public Schools.

At Monday night’s Richmond School Board meeting, Chief Academic Officer Tracy Epp presented results from the Virginia Growth Assessment testing. This academic year, the Virginia Department of Education launched the assessments to provide baseline data in reading and mathematics as students returned to school after the disruption caused by the pandemic. Students will continue to take traditional SOLs in the spring.

Epp says the VGA data reconfirms what school leaders feared after nearly a year and a half of students missing face-to-face instruction. School leaders say it could take years to address the problem.

The assessments reveal widespread learning gaps among nearly every core group of students, with an exception of white students.

Reading scores showed only 30% of Black students, 27% of Hispanic students, 75% of white students, 18% of students with disabilities and 21% of English learners are reading at proficient levels for their grade.

The results of math proficiency were grimmer. 5% of Black students, 8% of Hispanic students, 42% of white students, 3% of students with disabilities and 6% of English learners showed proficient levels of math knowledge for their grade level.

Epp says elementary students suffered the most setbacks, especially in literacy. 18% of 3rd graders, 33% of 4th graders and 42% of fifth graders are demonstrating reading proficiency at grade level.

Epp says while the results are disappointing, school leaders were not surprised due to long periods of missed instruction time.

“I also want to remind the board that our students were 100% virtual over the past year and while we know that some students may not have regressed as much, I think we are very clearly seeing the impact of COVID and the pandemic on our students,” Epp says.

School leaders emphasized that doubling down on academic support for students, continuing to invest in literacy and expanding intervention blocks, will help students catch up and meet future challenges.

Chesterfield County and Henrico County Schools have not yet released testing results from this fall’s VGA assessments.