The Vermont Agency of Education recently released the results of last spring’s Smarter Balance Assessment Program administered to students in grades three through nine and the Vermont Science Assessment, administered to students in grades five, eight and 11 throughout the state.
The English Language Arts assessment shows that 57% of Vermont third graders scored below proficient. This is significant because the Annie E. Casey Foundation has found that students not performing at or above proficient levels in English Language Arts by the end of third grade are four times more likely to drop out of school. The results showed third through ninth graders scoring between 46-57% below proficient in Language Arts.
Seventy-two percent of Vermont sixth graders scored below proficient in math, with third through ninth graders scoring between 58-72% below proficient.
Science assessments showed 65% of fifth and eighth graders scored below proficient, while 58% of 11th graders scored below proficient.
“Our 2021 assessment results highlight the enormous challenges and impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on student learning,” said Heather Bouchey, Ph.D., Deputy Secretary of Education. “While individual student results are valuable for educators and families, our 2021 scores serve as a stark reminder of how extraordinary last school year was.”
Historically marginalized students, including English Language Learners, students with disabilities and students living in poverty, are falling even further behind. Seventy-three percent of historically marginalized third graders scored below proficient in English Language Arts, with 66-75% of third through ninth graders in those populations scoring below proficient. A staggering 85% of historically marginalized ninth graders scored below proficient in math, with that population from grades three through nine scoring between 73-85% below proficient. In science assessments, 72-79% of historically marginalized students in grades five, eight and 11 scored below proficient. According to the Agency of Education, “The results of the spring 2021 ELA and Math assessments provide evidence that substantial performance gaps between students in historically marginalized groups, when compared to their non-historically marginalized peers, remain.”
While these results may seem stark, “We strongly recommend against comparing these results to previous years,” said Wendy Geller, Ph.D., director of the Data Management and Analysis Division at the Agency of Education. “Educators and families worked incredibly hard last year to minimize impacts to student learning and engagement. Despite their heroic efforts, it was not possible to conduct the Smarter Balanced and Vermont Science Assessments in the same way we had previously. The extraordinary circumstances lead to a range of factors that make this year’s results statistically invalid when compared to prior years.”
The past three school years have provided plenty of challenges for educators, students and families, from juggling remote and hybrid learning to dealing with at-home internet issues and lack of access to other resources, these results show Vermont students are falling behind.