LBUSD test scores fall, erasing gains that had it ahead of state average

Standardized test results released by the California Department of Education this week show scores for Long Beach Unified students dropped more sharply than the statewide average, with an especially large drop for Black and Hispanic students who had been making steady gains prior to the pandemic.

Across California, the share of students meeting or exceeding English standards dropped 3.81 percentage points from 2019 to 2022, falling to 47.06%. In math, those numbers were worse: falling 6.35 percentage points to just 33.38%.

The LBUSD’s decrease was nearly double the state average. Students meeting or exceeding English standards fell 6.05 percentage points to 47.05%, and in math, the number fell 12.66 percentage points to just 32.99%.

Pre-COVID, Long Beach had been ahead of the statewide average, with 53.92% of students meeting or exceeding English standards and 45.65% meeting or exceeding math standards in 2019. That was compared to the statewide average of 50.87% in English and 39.73% in Math.

This week’s test results flipped that equation, with the LBUSD either comparable to or slightly behind the statewide average.

This year’s results from the state’s Smarter Balanced Assessment System are a major milestone to measure learning loss during the pandemic because the test, which measures students’ ability to meet California’s Common Core standards, was canceled in 2020 and optional in 2021.

The results were originally scheduled to be released in December or January but arrived in full on Monday thanks in part to pressure from EdSource, a nonprofit news outlet that reports on education in California. Results for all state schools and districts can be found in an EdSource posting here.

“The data generally reflect a trend that we’ve seen elsewhere in California and nationally,” said LBUSD spokesperson Chris Eftychiou, “with many students adversely affected by the circumstances of the pandemic, the distance learning that occurred during school closures, and the challenges of returning to in-person learning. We’ve been aware of these challenges, and our resource allocations are prioritized to make the greatest impact in the areas of greatest need.”

LBUSD students of color were hit especially hard. Black and Hispanic students had been making steady gains prior to the pandemic, but much of that progress was erased between 2019 and 2022.

The percentage of Black students meeting or exceeding English standards fell from 39.58% in 2019 to 33.1% in 2022. In math, that number fell from 28.14% in 2019 to just 17.7% in 2022.

Hispanic students meeting or exceeding English standards fell from 47.83% in 2019 to 41.62% in 2022. In math, that figure fell from 39.63% in 2019 to 25.98% in 2022.

Scores for White students dropped less sharply, from 76.99% to 72.51% in English and 68.87% to 58.97% in math.

“Our equity gaps were actually magnified,” Boardmember Juan Benitez said during an LBUSD school board meeting last week. “We had gaps pre-pandemic, and we were working to diminish and eliminate them. And our post-pandemic data shows that we actually have an exacerbation of our equity gaps, particularly for our Black students.”

During a discussion of the data at that meeting, Superintendent Jill Baker illustrated the situation with an animated graphic that showed where the different racial groups were over the years from 2016 to 2022, with steady progress being wiped out after the pandemic.

“This is what five years of loss looks like,” she said. “It tells a story—a story of loss, a story of challenge, a story that also corroborates what we know about the struggle of our families.”

Baker said the data proves what the district has known for some time about how the pandemic affected the district’s Black and Hispanic Students.

“There was a heavier aspect on our BIPOC students,” Baker said. “And you’ll see that in the results of what they experienced in the pandemic.”

The district has discussed at several board meetings over the last year its plan to make up for the learning loss, using its Learning Acceleration and Support Plan.

The district spent $65.7 million on academic acceleration and support last year as part of the LASP. That plan is being updated with the new data and will be presented with updates soon.

At last week’s meeting, LBUSD Board President Megan Kerr said she appreciated the blunt assessment of erased progress.

“I think it’s really telling that we’re not hiding from the data and I’m appreciative that we’re being so clear with where we need to go from here,” she said.

A searchable school-by-school breakdown of the test results is available on EdSource here. A breakdown of the LBUSD’s results by race/ethnicity, gender, and income level can be found here.

California student test scores plunge — but some achievement gaps narrow

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