Rio test scores avoid sharp decline seen in state and nation

Despite school closures because of the Covid-19 pandemic students at Rio improved slightly in English and did not fall as far behind in math as most students in Calif. and US


Photo By Calif. Dept. of Education

Smarter Balance tests results for Rio Americano

Edena Ichel, Mirada Editor

Rio Americano students bucked a trend of state and national declines in reading scores by improving slightly during the pandemic, while Rio math scores fell, but not as steeply as for the state overall, based on student test scores released Tuesday by California’s Department of Education.

English language scores at Rio rose 0.8 percentage points as 60% of juniors met standards compared to a statewide decline for all grades of 4 percentage points to 47%. In math, the school’s scores fell 5.9 percentage points to 36%. Overall, the number of California students meeting state math standards plunged 7 percentage points to 33%.

Statewide declines mirrored national trends of learning loss during Covid and wiped out most of the academic progress made since California changed how it funds education in 2014. 

Principal Cliff Kelly said he thought school closures for the Covid-19 pandemic played a significant role in the overall decline in test scores with math scores suffering more because of the sequential nature of math instruction.

“My hypothesis would have something to do with distance learning,” Kelly said. “Some of the skill sets you need to master in English are skill sets that don’t require scaffolding on the same level that they do in math.”

Pandemic learning loss is a national problem exposed by the results of a national test that was also released this week. The National Assessment of Education Progress (NEAP), showed the largest declines in reading and math in the fourth and eighth grades since the test was started in 1990; however, scores are still higher than they were in the ‘90s. 

State Republican leaders said the scores indicated failed education policies. 

“Democrat policies get an F,” Senate GOP leader Scott Wilk  (R-Lancaster) said in a statement. “(These scores) are a clear referendum on the failed policies advocated by the governor, legislative leaders, and the state superintendent of public instruction for years… After shuttering schools for the better part of two years, student failure is on steroids.”

However, Gavin Newsom (D) issued a press release touting the state’s emphasis on safety by keeping schools closed while still outperforming many states that reopened schools earlier. 

“California focused on keeping kids safe during the pandemic while making record investments to mitigate learning loss and transforming our education system,” said Newsom in a statement. “While California’s students experienced less learning loss than those in most other states during the pandemic, these results are not a celebration but a call to action.”

Kelly said many factors may have contributed to Rio’s scores not holding steady in English and not declining as much in math as at other schools.

“Maybe students are more resilient,” he said. “Maybe teachers did a better job of connecting to students. Maybe students’ parents did a better job encouraging connection on Zoom.”

NEAP scores a based on tests given to about 4,000 California students and a sampling of students in every state. The state’s Smarter Balanced tests, which are aligned with the state’s Common Core standards, are administered every spring to nearly all Californians in grades three through eight and grade eleven. 

Detailed results for Rio Americano, the San Juan district and the rest of the state are available on the Department of Education testing dashboard.

Coming up next week: An exclusive interview with Principal Cliff Kelly on test scores at Rio and beyond.

Photo By Calif. DOE
Photo By Calif. DOE
Photo By Calif. DOE