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Results confirm pandemic’s effect on achievement

Test results confirm pandemic’s effect on student achievement

Test results confirm pandemic’s effect on student achievement

Graduation rate for the Class of 2021 is 86.5 percent; six schools are above 90 percent

Gastonia, N.C. – Test results for the 2020-2021 academic year confirm that the COVID-19 pandemic had a significant effect on student achievement in Gaston County and across North Carolina, according to information released by the North Carolina State Board of Education. 

Statewide, student proficiency rates on end-of-year and end-of-course tests were lower for all tested grade levels and subject areas when compared to data from the 2018-2019 year, the last year when students took state tests, according to the N.C. Department of Public Instruction.  End-of-year tests were not administered for the 2019-2020 year after the pandemic forced the closure of school buildings and halted in-person instruction in March 2020.

“Everyone realizes that the pandemic has affected all aspects of school, including academic achievement, accountability, and testing so it is not surprising to have test results that indicate lower student proficiency,” stated Superintendent of Schools W. Jeffrey Booker.  “The state end-of-grade and end-of-course tests are designed to measure student learning based on typical face-to-face classroom instruction during the school year.  Because of the pandemic, 2020-2021 was an atypical academic year.  The modified schedule reduced the amount of in-person instruction at school and forced us to rely on remote and virtual learning at home.”

Dr. Booker continued, “Because of the unprecedented circumstances we have experienced, we know that the test results for 2020-2021 do not give a full picture of the academic ability of our students.  We also know that a decrease in proficiency does not equate to a decrease in effort.  Our students, parents, teachers, and school personnel went beyond expectations last year to make school happen, and we appreciate what everyone did.  It is our hope that we have as normal of a school year as possible in 2021-2022 despite the ongoing pandemic.”

The preliminary test results released by the state on September 1 provide information about the graduation rate for the Class of 2021 and student proficiency for the 2020-2021 academic year.  State tests were administered in the following subject areas to determine proficiency:  reading and math for grades 3-8, science for grades 5 and 8, and Math I, Math III, Biology, and English II for high schools. 

The preliminary results for 2020-2021 do not include information about academic growth and school performance grades.  The requirement to report academic growth (whether schools met growth, exceeded growth, or did not meet growth expectations for the year) and school performance grades (the assignment of an A, B, C, D, or F letter grade to schools based on various accountability and testing factors) was waived by the state and federal government.   

▪ Graduation rate
The Gaston County graduation rate for the Class of 2021 is 86.5 percent.  Six schools have a graduation rate that exceeds 90 percent:  Gaston Early College (100 percent), Gaston County Virtual Academy (100 percent), Highland (100 percent), Cherryville (92.0 percent), South Point (91.8 percent), and Ashbrook (91.0 percent).

North Gaston had the most significant increase (+3.4) when compared to last year.  Over a three-year period, North Gaston’s graduation rate has risen 6.1 points, going from 82.6 percent in 2019 to 88.7 this year.  Cherryville (+4.3) and South Point (+1.7) also saw an increase in the graduation rate over three years. 

Called the four-year cohort graduation rate, it reflects the percentage of students who entered the ninth grade in 2017-2018 and graduated four years later in May 2021.  The four-year graduation rate is not the same as the dropout rate, which indicates the number of students who drop out of high school in a given year.  When the state first calculated the four-year cohort graduation rate in 2005-2006, Gaston County’s rate was a mere 68.1 percent.

It is important to note that Gaston’s current graduation rate of 86.5 percent is higher than the rate of 84.9 percent in 2018-2019, which was the last “normal” school year before the pandemic hit.    

Some students need an extra year of high school to complete graduation requirements.  The district’s five-year cohort graduation rate is 88.4 percent.  The five-year cohort graduation rate reflects the number of students who entered the ninth grade in 2016-2017 and graduated by May 2021.

▪ Student proficiency
Gaston’s overall proficiency rate for 2020-2021 is comparable with how well students across North Carolina performed on state tests.  Gaston’s proficiency is 44.1 percent, which is just slightly below the state’s overall rate of 45.4 percent (a difference of only 1.3).

Gaston recorded its highest proficiency levels in fifth grade science, eighth grade science, and English II.  The schools with the highest proficiency rate include Belmont Central, W.A. Bess, and Hawks Nest (elementary schools); Belmont, Cramerton, and Stanley (middle schools); and Gaston Early College, Highland, and South Point (high schools).  Proficiency is based on the number of students scoring a Level III, IV, or V on the state tests.

Based on overall proficiency for the state, Gaston County exceeded the state totals in six areas: sixth grade math, seventh grade math, eighth grade math, Math I, Math III, and Biology.  Gaston had the same rate as the state in eighth grade science.

“The test results provide a benchmark for our schools by letting us know where our students are academically and what we need to do to get our students on track for success in the 2021-2022 year,” added Dr. Booker.  “Our schools plan to use the test data to guide academics and develop instructional plans that are in the best interest of students.  Our priority is to meet the educational needs of all students, and we are confident that our teachers are up to the challenge of building on what students were able to learn last year and helping them grow and thrive academically in the year ahead.”

Click here to view charts/information about the graduation rate, student proficiency by school, and student proficiency by subject and grade level.  The charts include proficiency numbers for 2018-2019 (pre-pandemic) to illustrate the influence of the pandemic on academic achievement. 

However, the charts should not be used for comparison purposes because of several factors, including differences in schedules and modes of instruction used during the 2020-2021 school year (in-person, remote, and virtual); the recalculation of performance standards for reading tests and not providing a retest option for reading because of the recalculation; and a varied “testing window” when schools could administer the tests to students.  Because of these factors, it is not possible to have an apples-to-apples comparison of proficiency rates for 2018-2019 and 2020-2021.

The test scores released by the State Board of Education are preliminary results.  The results must be verified by the state, and official results will be a part of the district and school report cards, which will be issued this fall.

Click here for the press release about test results from the N.C. Department of Public Instruction.