COVID has most impacted our underserved students – Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence
Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence

COVID has most impacted our underserved students

The pandemic has had a monumental impact on all Kentuckians.

What students, teachers, and families had to endure, and what the state has been able to overcome to structure learning in these unprecedented times, is worth remembering. The best efforts of our teachers, students, and families to rise above the global pandemic to create meaningful learning opportunities must be acknowledged.

Although participation rates for the 2020-2021 state assessment were down due to pandemic reasons, the data gathered does show COVID has had a tremendous impact on our students.  The consequences for minoritized students and those with the largest achievement gaps were only exacerbated.

The trend that we continued to see with these results is that the educational outcomes for all Kentuckians are not equitable and the inequities are predictable based on demographics.

In a year when the realities of learning were anything but traditional, the results for Black students, Hispanic or Latino students, economically disadvantaged students, students with identified disabilities, and English Language Learners are all too predictable.

A deeper dive raises another concern with regards to equity. In a year where participation was not what it would normally be (KDE reports just over 89% of eligible students participating in the assessment at the elementary level, just over 84% at the middle school level, and just under 77% at the high school level in 2020-2021 versus traditionally having over 95% participation on each of the previous two assessments at each level), the rise in Novice scores amongst the most marginalized, historically, is concerning.

The red boxes represent groups for which the percentage of 2020-2021 Novice students jumped by at least 10% compared to the previous 2 testing cycles. The blue represents students for whom a 5% increase was experienced in 2020-2021 when compared to the previous two testing cycles.

Elementary students with identified disabilities experienced closed a part of their gap between the first two test cycles. This gap has widened even further than it was in 2017-2018 with the results from this year.

Even with the challenges of COVID, Kentucky students, teachers, and families showed that they can overcome even the harshest circumstances. Latino high school students slightly closed the Novice gap in 2020-2021 in reading, while students with disabilities and English language learners had more dramatic gap closures. This is proof that the Commonwealth can improve educational outcomes in the most trying of circumstances.

There are evidence-based approaches that schools can take moving forward to help accelerate the learning of these students. The Education Trust (Ed Trust) has identified some targeted strategies in the immediate that can be adopted by schools to facilitate this acceleration. These include:

There is a lot of hard work ahead to accelerate the students that are furthest behind. We must remain laser-focused on supporting equitable opportunities for all Kentucky students.

No distractions; we need all hands on deck!

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