Op-Ed: New test scores show students lost a lot of ground in the pandemic. Overreacting won’t help them.
By Stephanie Simon
Schools, families, communities and parents have been waiting for the federal government’s school safety report card for months. Now it’s here.
The final school safety report from the Department of Justice includes scores for each student tested, as well as a composite score for schools and districts. The results are a mixed bag, with some good news and some bad news.
The good news: More than half of the nation’s public schools (58 percent) and all private schools (66 percent) have earned an A, the highest grade possible. That’s based on the number of tests administered. (See Table A, below, for the breakdown of scores in both public and private schools.)
The bad news: The percentage of schools that earn an A is the same as it was before the pandemic, but this is more than six months after the first student was exposed to COVID-19.
The biggest improvement, as you might expect, went to students at the lowest grade levels. In the 2015-16 school year, 1 in 7 public schools and 1 in 10 private schools earned an A. In this year’s report, that 1 percentage point leap has been cut almost in half.
For the second straight year, all three levels earned A or A- grades with few schools crossing the line.
On a school-by-school basis, the biggest gains came to schools with the most students. These schools saw a 15-percentage point increase in test scores, while many others experienced a 5-percentage point or more increase.
Looking at the composite grade, about 7 percent of all schools earned an A or an A- — a number that’s down from last year at 8.9 percent. Almost one-third (29.3 percent) of schools earned an F.
When it comes to the percentage of schools that earned an A or an A- — which is