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San Diego unified test results drop, district officials cite pandemic as one cause

San Diego Unified School District students meeting or exceeding state standards in English and math have declined 4% and 7.4%, respectively, since 2019, district officials said Monday.

The numbers come from California Smarter Balanced assessments, which reflect students’ academic performance amid the pandemic.

“As a school community, we need to adopt a new mindset when looking at assessment results, which are a snapshot in unprecedented times,” said Deputy Superintendent Fabiola Bagula. “What’s important is how we react when we start discussing the results. That means not blaming our students, not blaming our teachers, not blaming ourselves.”

CSBA results provide baseline data on student achievement and are part of several measures San Diego Unified uses to assess academic performance, reads a district statement. The data is intended to help inform the district’s efforts to meet the needs of all students amid the pandemic and into the future.

“These results allow us to better understand the strengths and needs of our students,” said Superintendent Lamont Jackson. “We need to ask ourselves questions to better understand how we can support our students and create learning conditions based on equity so that all students can succeed.

“San Diego Unified is committed to helping our students recover — with academic and social-emotional support — so all children have the ability to thrive in school,” he said.

Other results data points include:

— English language scores (ELA) for students with Individual Education Plans increased by 2.3%;

— Test scores decreased by 4.1% in ELA and 7.7% in mathematics for economically disadvantaged students;

— The scores of non-economically disadvantaged students fell by 5.8% in ELA and by 9.4% in mathematics;

— Test scores decreased for English learners by 2.3% in ELA and 5.6% in math; and

— The scores of students proficient in English fell by 4.4% in ELA and by 7.9% in mathematics.

Board of Education chair Sharon Whitehurst-Payne said the pandemic has exacerbated existing trends in student performance and “reinforced the need to focus on the whole child”.

“We have all been affected by the pandemic. However, some students and families have been affected more than others,” she said. “We cannot forget that many of our students are still mourning the family members, caregivers and loved ones they lost to COVID-19.

“Our work will focus on the whole child, and all members of our unified San Diego community must come together to support our students and staff to ensure that students feel a sense of belonging and can achieve their full potential,” said Whitehurst-Payne.

But San Diego Unified isn’t alone in these trends, a district statement said. State-standardized test scores reflect nationwide academic performance trends post-pandemic, including the recently released results of the National Education Progress Assessment.

The district touted some of its actions to help students recover from learning loss and the pandemic, including:

— Expansion of preschool education programs, including universal transitional kindergarten;

— Expanded learning opportunities outside the classroom;

— Disciplinary supports for science, technology, engineering arts, math and literacy;

— Expanded education and opportunities in the visual and performing arts; and

— A focus on standards-based learning, teaching and grading.

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