OC students outpace state in latest performance assessments that reflect pandemic’s impact

Orange County’s public school students continued to outpace the state in the latest round of standardized tests, according to assessment scores released Friday by the California Department of Education. But overall data from the 2020-21 Smarter Balanced Assessments reflects how the pandemic has impacted schools and students.

Statewide, 49 percent of students tested proficient or advanced in English language arts, while 33 reached proficiency or higher in mathematics. In Orange County, about 61 percent met or exceeded grade-level standards in English, and 43 percent did so in math.

After five consecutive years of steady progress, the data affirms both the challenges created by the pandemic and California’s commitment to helping students recover from COVID-19, the state department of education said in a news release.

“The statewide performance data from last year confirms what we heard from school districts and county offices throughout the year,” said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond. “Namely, the challenges that students and educators faced during the pandemic were multidimensional and disruptive to learning and mental health. Our goal now is to move all students forward.”

You might recall that the tests, which are part of the state’s redesigned accountability system that debuted in 2014, were waived for the 2019–20 school year. But in 2020–21, the U.S. Department of Education required states to administer statewide academic assessments — allowing shortened versions and modifications — in English language arts and mathematics.

And while this year’s scores show a widening of achievement gaps between student groups, the state cautioned that the data is both limited in “scope and use,” as the number of students who took the tests were much smaller than in past years. To help understand the data and to provide educators and families with factors to consider when interpreting the results, the CDE created a new guide, which can be found on the CDE California Assessment Results News Release web page.

Additional information about California’s statewide student assessment system can be found on the CDE website.