Lower test scores reflect pandemic's impact on Ridgefield students, officials said

Assistant Superintendent Cory Gillette, top right, outlined the "extreme conditions" in which tests were taken this year, including students attending school in person, some remotely and some on a hybrid schedule.

Assistant Superintendent Cory Gillette, top right, outlined the “extreme conditions” in which tests were taken this year, including students attending school in person, some remotely and some on a hybrid schedule.

Screen capture / YouTube.com

RIDGEFIELD — The results from a series of standardized tests taken by students in the spring are in and some grades saw declines in higher achievement levels, which administrators attributed to the pandemic.

During a Board of Education meeting Monday night, school officials shared test results from three state-required assessments: the Smarter Balanced Assessment in English — or ELA — and math, the Next Generation Science Assessment and the SAT School Day. The scores were also compared to those from 2019.

The achievement levels range from Level 1, where a student does not meet the achievement standard, to Level 4, where a student exceeds the achievement standard.

Assistant Superintendent Cory Gillette outlined the “extreme conditions” in which tests were taken this year, including students attending school in person, some remotely and some on a hybrid schedule. This was also the first year that standardized tests could be taken at home. Gillette said the learning conditions in spring 2021 greatly differed from spring 2019.

Test results

Linda Johnson, the K-5 elementary director, said an overall majority of students in third through fifth grade reached Levels 3 and 4 in ELA on the SBA, but there were “observed differences” among this cohorts’ performance in mathematics between 2019 and 2021, particularly in grades 4 and 5.

In 2019, 86 percent of Ridgefield’s fourth graders achieved Level 3 or higher. This year, only 77 percent achieved Level 3 or higher. The percentage of fourth graders who approached the achievement standard (Level 2) increased from 11 to 19 percent. These trends were also true for fifth-grade students who took the assessment.

Annie Tucci, 6-12 humanities supervisor, ran through the ELA scores among students in grades six through eight.

“Our current scores during (the) pandemic do show a decrease overall,” she said. “It could be suggested that since (middle school) students spent more time in the hybrid learning model than the elementary school that we’re going to see that decrease in the Level 3 and 4 scores.”

Jeff Corbishley, 6-12 mathematics and science supervisor, said achievement gains made between 2017 and 2019 in math were lost in 2021 for students in grades six through eight.

On the 2021 SATs, 11th graders averaged scores in both ELA and mathematics that exceeded the subjects’ benchmarks. Corbishley noted, however, that there was a “substantial increase” in the number of students who achieved Level 1 math proficiency between 2019 and 2021, which jumped from 3 to 27 percent.

The Next Generation Science Assessment was first administered to Ridgefield students in fifth, eighth and 11th grades in 2019. Between the two data points, proficiency numbers remained “fairly consistent” across all three cohorts, Corbishley said.

Gillette said administrators are working to ensure current courses are integrated with any instruction students may have missed over the past year and a half.

Comments from the board

Board member Sean McEvoy recommended breaking some of the performance information down even more to better see where some of the learning challenges lie.

Board member Tina Malhorta expected lower numbers considering students took these tests under the “toughest of circumstances,” she said.

Noting an impending discussion surrounding the district’s goals, board member Elizabeth Floegel said closing the gap in students’ learning loss should be a top priority.

“If we can’t get kids … learning actively and filling in the 18 months of learning loss that they’ve had, we have failed as an education community,” she said.