Data has shown what leaders at Bend-La Pine Schools already knew: Students with less support at home have disproportionately experienced learning loss during the coronavirus pandemic.
Staff presented three key performance indicators for students in kindergarten to second grade and high school students during a school board work session on Tuesday.
Superintendent Steve Cook called attention to one of the charts comparing two cohorts of K-2 students based on their scores from assessments measuring literacy skills. The first group started kindergarten in 2017 and was the last group that had full in-person instruction from kindergarten to second grade. The second group started kindergarten in 2019, moved to remote learning later that school year and is now in second grade.
The comparison of the two groups shows that students in the 20th percentile in scoring have disproportionately lost more ground. Students at the 50th percentile and higher also experienced learning loss, but the difference was less dramatic, and they are still on track in the second grade. Meanwhile, students in the 95th percentile had near identical scores in both groups.
“Nationally this is playing out,” Cook said. “Many of our students across the country that have systems at home and have supports at home are actually coming out just fine, while the growth of the students with the least opportunity for those resources being accessible at home is being exacerbated by the pandemic. Therefore we shouldn’t fall into a fallacy that this is equally distributed and being carried by all students.”
Cook said the district needs to reach the students who need the extra support and focus more attention on them because they are more at risk.
“If you translate this forward seven more years, you can anticipate that those students that might enter into their freshman year, (are) more likely to be behind in their graduation expectations,” he said.
The same chart showed that fewer than 20% of second graders in the first group were at risk of not reaching reading benchmarks, and now 30%-40% of the second group are at risk of falling behind.
For high school students, district staff analyzed grades and credit completion, which showed that students who have been historically underserved have disproportionately experienced academic decline. Historically underserved groups include students in special education, English-language learners, underserved racial or ethnic groups and students who are economically disadvantaged. Economically disadvantaged students, which is measured by student eligibility for free or reduced-price lunch, make up the largest underserved group in the district.
The first set of graphs analyzed the number of students who received at least one F grade or no grade year over year since 2013-14. The numbers have remained fairly consistent except for a drop in students receiving at least one F or no grade in the 2019-20 school year. The school district said the drop was largely due to the state Department of Education placing a moratorium on giving F grades.
During the 2020-21 school year, about 30% of students who have been historically underserved received at least one F or no grade. In contrast, it was only 12% for students who do not fit the description of being historically underserved. English-language learners were the most affected, with 41% receiving at least one F or no grade.
Finally, district staff presented graphs showing the percentage of ninth graders that earned at least a quarter of the credits needed to graduate during their freshman year.
During the pandemic, the district has seen a 12% drop in the number of students on track in completing credits. The drop mirrors statewide statistics. The graphs also showed a consistent year-over-year gap with historically underserved students. Only 66% of historically underserved students completed at least a quarter of required credits in the 2020-2021 school year, in contrast to the 84% of students who are not historically underserved.
Dave VanLoo, the school district’s assistant director of student assessment, said that while the drop in on track credit completion is not unique to Bend-La Pine Schools, it is concerning.
“Basically, what this means is there’s a lot more students this year, starting 10th grade who are off track for graduating,” VanLoo said. “I would say this is an early warning indicator to high school and high school graduation that’s as powerful as the early literacy is to elementary. And we know that if students are off track at the end of their ninth grade year, it’s substantially more difficult for them to earn a high school diploma within four years.”
Deputy Superintendent Lora Nordquist called the data “chilling,” adding that the middle school data is also concerning.
“I knew it and believed that our kids were being harmed, but seeing this data is so compelling to me as a reminder that we knew that our kids who didn’t have all the supports at home were really struggling during this pandemic,” Nordquist said.
Staff discussed plans to address the learning loss, which includes ongoing job-embedded professional learning and coaching for teachers.
The school district is investing in several English language development models including its immigrant and newcomer program and integrated English language development .
An equitable grading team has been created to research best practices in assessments. The team plans to recommend policies, practices and professional learning by the spring.
The district is also accelerating a portion of its language arts adoption to ensure all elementary teachers have high-quality foundational reading skills materials and additional training in teaching foundational skills.
The district hopes to complete the curriculum review and adoption process by late spring, with teachers using new materials by next fall.