Education /

California Delays Release of Student Test Scores

Student Advocates say state officials want to shirk responsibility for disastrous pandemic policies ahead of the midterms

The California Department of Education (CDE) planned to delay the release of English, math, and science test scores until after the midterm elections.

State officials stalling the release of the data came amid a report showing that on a national scale, reading and math scores plummeted during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The drop in student performance correlates with the time period that many schools across the U.S. faced in-person closures, forcing children into remote learning. Many schools that were open for in-person learning had restrictions, like forced masking. California had the harshest pandemic-related restrictions in the entire nation.

CDE officials told EdSource they are withholding scores now so they can be simultaneously released with other data.

“We are on track to release the data as we did last year. If we can come out sooner, we will,” said Mary Nicely, chief deputy state superintendent for instruction. “We are not withholding anything; people are working hard to finalize the data.”

But, some believe the delay is to shield pandemic-related learning loss from voters casting ballots in the midterm elections.

“The fact that the department is not willing to publish now suggests that scores will be lower and the current state superintendent does not want to be held accountable for the results,” said Lance Christensen, who is a candidate for Superintendent of Public Instruction.

Attorneys for EdSource sent a five-page letter to the state’s Education Department, demanding the immediate release of the test scores.

EdSource argues that certain districts have already made some information public and that there is no statutory basis for CDE to withhold the release of student test scores.

“That CDE is seeking to improperly control the release of this data in an election year also has not gone unnoticed and, given the implausible nature of the exemption claims asserted by CDE and its past practice of disclosing this data in early Fall, appears to be a driving factor,” the letter states.

One district that has released its test scores is Los Angeles Unified, which showed pandemic-era school restrictions were devastating for students.

About 72 percent of students are failing to meet standards in math, while 58 percent are not meeting standards in English, the LA Times reported.

“The pandemic deeply impacted the performance of our students,” said L.A. schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho. “Particularly kids who were at risk, in a fragile condition, prior to the pandemic, as we expected, were the ones who have lost the most ground.”

On Sept. 27, CDE officials updated their position, vowing to have test scores publicly available sometime in October.

“CDE deserves some credit for reversing its position on this. It seemed as if they were dug in but there’s a certain amount of bureaucratic flexibility they’re showing that will make a difference for students,” said Thomas Peele, an investigative reporter for EdSource.

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