Oregon students’ performance on reading, writing and math tests remains stuck at dismal post-pandemic lows, despite the billions of state and federal dollars aimed at helping them recover in the two years since the pandemic shuttered school buildings across the state.
The results, based on tests given last spring and released Thursday by the Oregon Department of Education, are virtually identical to 2022′s abysmal outcomes, with students across the board showing miniscule improvement in math and a slight backsliding in English.
The data show only about 40% of students scored as proficient on Smarter Balanced reading and writing tests, far below even the relatively anemic pre-pandemic levels of 51%. The picture is bleaker yet in math, where just 30% scored proficient, an enormous drop from the pre-pandemic low point of 40%. Proficiency in this context means that the student is on track to be ready for college or the workforce once they graduate from high school.
Middle schools emerged as a particular disaster zone. Seventh and eighth graders lost ground in English; seventh graders demonstrated only the barest hints of growth in math, and eighth graders’ performance was statistically stagnant in that subject, with only 25% of them hitting proficiency targets.
A focus on “equity” instead of actual teaching of subject matter leads here.
Other states have seen their standardized test scores rebound after two years back in buildings, albeit modestly. In Massachusetts, for example, education officials this week said students in grades 3 through 8 made statistically significant gains in both math and English from the previous year. In Washington, the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction this week reported students registered encouraging progress in math at all grades and in English at the elementary level.
I can’t speak to what other states have done, but Oregon continues to see problems of educational achievement as a reason to lower student standards rather than improve teaching methods.
Oregon has benefitted from a $1.7 billion infusion from the federal government to help students catch up, in addition to an additional $1 billion a year in business taxes for education starting in 2020.
But school districts have spent wildly varying portions of their federal money to address academic deficits head on. And unlike in states such as Tennessee, Oregon has not coordinated efforts to implement strategies that researchers have said are the most effective at helping students catch up, including one-on-one or small group “high dose” tutoring delivered during school hours multiple times a week or academically intensive summer learning programs. Tennessee, which has implemented both of those strategies, reported in June that its students exceeded their pre-pandemic performance on the state’s English and social studies tests and made significant gains in math.
I would only note that this mess was under Governor Brown’s leadership not Governor Kotek (as governor). Either way, the Democratic super majority means that this is all on the Democrats and their educational policies. And the one thing we can say with certainty: They don’t work.