Photo: FREDERIC J. BROWN / AFP / Getty Images
For months, researchers and educational institutions have warned of the devastating effects that the pandemic and school closures have had on students’ academic progress.
An analysis published by the Los Angeles Times shows deep drops in grades in key learning areas, where Hispanic students in the city of Los Angeles have been hit particularly hard.
The pre-pandemic grade gap between Latino students and their white and Asian counterparts widened to 21 percentage points.
Reading scores in elementary schools fell 7 percentage points overall, while the gaps between Hispanic students and their white and Asian classmates grew to 26 percentage points or more.
More than 200,000 students are not meeting grade level goals in math and reading.
The analysis highlights future challenges for Los Angeles teachers, as students return to classrooms and face unprecedented needs.
The massive educational recovery effort underway in the nation’s second-largest school district follows a year and a half of unprecedented turmoil.
When schools closed their doors, the district struggled to close a massive digital divide and shift toward online learning, while families in some of the city’s poorest areas faced life-and-death difficulties from coronavirus that were in between. the worst in the nation.
Focusing on safety, the district took longer to reopen schools than others and took limited advantage of state rules that allowed it to bring vulnerable students onto campus.
For months, it required fewer minutes of live online instruction than many other school systems, an agreement forged with the teachers union to provide flexibility for everyone during the pandemic emergency.
When the district began reopening schools in April, in-person attendance was low, especially in high schools, where students were limited to taking classes online from college.
Students who were further behind before the pandemic saw the largest declines.
For instance, the percentage of A, B, and C grades earned by Latino students in the spring of 2021 decreased by more than 10 percentage points compared to pre-pandemic fall 2019, approximately 79% to 68%.
English learners saw a 12 percentage point drop, from 70% to 58%.
White and Asian students also saw their grades drop, but at about half the rate for Hispanics.
For Asian students, that means the percentage of A, B, and C went from 94% in Fall 2019 to 90% in Spring 2021. For White students, it went from 89% to 84%.
For African American students, the drop was about 6 percentage points.
About 76% of the grades earned in Fall 2019 were A, B, and C, compared to 70% in Spring 2021.
Approximately 180,000 Los Angeles Unified School District students who were assessed during the 2020-2021 academic year did not meet grade-level reading goals, and the data worsened during the pandemic, assessments show.
White and Asian students, who before the pandemic were significantly more likely to meet grade level goals, saw only gradual drops or had largely unchanged results during school closings.
Math assessments also showed that hundreds of thousands of students did not meet grade level goals.
At the elementary level, only approximately 21% of all students who were tested by the end of the 2020-2021 school year were meeting grade level goals.
For Latino students, it was less than 18%, compared to about 43% for Asian students and 34% for white students.
In middle and high school grades, more than 75% of Latino students who took the Renaissance Star math test at the end of the 2020-2021 school year were below grade level and likely needed intervention.
Most of the white and Asian students were at or above grade level.
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