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Pandemic’s toll on learning: Proficiency in math, science plummets among Hawaii students

New figures illustrate the dramatic scope of pandemic learning loss at Hawaii’s public schools, with the biggest declines in proficiency among high-needs studen
Published: Oct. 19, 2021 at 11:44 AM HST|Updated: Oct. 19, 2021 at 11:49 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - New figures illustrate the dramatic scope of pandemic learning loss at Hawaii’s public schools, with the biggest declines in proficiency among high-needs students.

Standardized assessments administered in spring 2021 showed that just 32% of public school students tested were proficient in math ― a 26% drop from 2019, the last year that the tests were given.

Meanwhile, language arts proficiency dropped to 50%, from 54%.

And about 35% of students tested showed proficiency in science, from 44%.

High needs subgroups, including those who are economically disadvantaged, showed even greater declines in proficiency.

Just 20% of students from low-income households demonstrated proficiency in math. The percentage of Micronesian students who were math proficient plummeted by 53% in 2021.

And just 23% of homeless students were proficient in language arts, a 15% decline.

Other figures also showed just how much students were struggling in the 2020-21 school year ― a year that saw most students learning in a hybrid format with some in-person instruction.

  • Chronic absenteeism rose in 2021. About 1 in 5 students had 15 or more absences.
  • Some 85% of eighth graders were promoted to ninth grade, down from 93%.
  • And the college-going rate dropped 5 percentage points, to 50%.

In one glimmer of good news, the graduation rate overall stayed about the same in 2021.

The testing figures will be presented to the Hawaii Board of Education on Thursday, during which DOE administrators are expected to detail how recovering from pandemic learning loss could take years.

This school year, the vast majority of Hawaii public school students are in full, in-person learning ― something state officials have said is vital to ensure that more instructional opportunities aren’t lost.

Staff at Roosevelt High said they’ve been focused on helping students catch up.

“We didn’t have as much contact time with the students not being on campus as often,” said Sean Wong, the principal of Roosevelt High. “Some of our learning time was lost.”

Wong said they are trying to make students feel comfortable in the classroom and trying to check in with teachers to see if the curriculum needs to be adjusted along the way.

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