New test scores illustrate how COVID is impacting student learning in Kentucky

close up high school student man hand writing by marking choices on answer sheet paper for final examination test in classroom concept

New test scores from the Kentucky Department of Education shine a light on how COVID-19 disruptions may have impacted student learning during the pandemic. 

Results from the 2020-2021 Kentucky Summative Assessment (KSA), formerly K-PREP, were released Wednesday morning. Across all grade levels subject to testing:

  • fewer than half of Kentucky students scored proficient or distinguished when it comes to reading
  • fewer than a third were proficient or distinguished in math
  • roughly a quarter were proficient or distinguished in science
  • in writing, almost 40 percent of elementary school students were proficient or distinguished, while middle and high school students reached 50.9 percent and 57.2 percent, respectively.

Tests were taken in the Spring of 2021. 

The state received a waiver from testing from the federal Department of Education for the 2019-2020 school year due to the pandemic. Kentucky had sought another waiver for 2020-2021 but was denied. 

Education officials had expected poor results and are cautioning against comparing this year’s test scores to previous years. “Due to COVID-19, students faced learning disruptions, changes in the opportunities to learn, lower participation rates and a shortened assessment in 2021. Because of these challenges, you cannot make direct comparisons of assessment data from prior years,” according to a press release from the Kentucky Department of Education. 

“We knew these results would not be what we wanted to see, but the previous two school years saw extreme challenges,” said Education Commissioner Jason E. Glass. “We can use this information to address the gaps caused by COVID-19 disruptions and provide our students with the supports they need to be successful. This is one of a variety of tools our districts use on a regular basis to gauge where our students are.”

Kentucky also saw a slight decrease in the high school graduation rate, falling from 91.1 percent in 2020 to 90.0 percent in 2021. 

The Kentucky Chamber encouraged assessments for the 2020-2021 school, arguing that such data is necessary to study and quantify the impact of COVID-19 disruptions on student learning. Test scores, alongside other sources of data, can help policymakers and educators make informed decisions on how to most effectively support positive student outcomes. 

Read more about Kentucky’s 2021 KSA results here.

About the Author

Charles Aull
Senior Policy Analyst at the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce

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