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Utah students' test scores decline during COVID-19 pandemic

Posted at 10:26 PM, Nov 08, 2021

SALT LAKE CITY — The education of Utah students suffered due to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

That is the finding of a report presented to the Utah State Board of Education.

Darin Nielsen, the state’s assistant superintendent of student learning, recently presented the findings to board members.

“It’s clear that the disruption caused by the pandemic affected all of our student groups,” he told FOX 13 during an interview on Zoom. “The big difference with the pandemic is just the scale and the scope of the magnitude of it because it affected our entire community.”

The study used testing data to gauge where students stand nearly two years after the pandemic began in March 2020.

One example used the reading benchmark for students in grades 1-3.

An assessment completed in January and February of 2020 found 69 percent of students in those grades reached the benchmark.

One year later, well into the pandemic, that number fell to 62 percent.

Math scores also saw a sharp decline for students in grades 5-10.

“It gives you a pretty clear picture of the effects of the spring 2020 shutdown,” Nielsen said.

This study did not find a specific cause for deficiencies.

When the pandemic first began, all schools in the state moved to remote learning.

When the fall 2020 term began, many students returned to in-person or hybrid learning and dealt with disruptions like quarantines.

“The impacts of pandemic — we won't be able to overcome those in a month or two,” Nielsen said. “They’ll likely last for several years.”

He believes everyone who has a hand in education has a duty to help students make up the ground lost during the pandemic.

“The phrase I like to use is to provide academic tailwinds that will allow their pace of learning to increase,” Nielsen said. “Allowing them to get back to the place we would have expected them to be had the pandemic never occurred.”

The full report is expected to be released early next week and will be presented to the state legislature.