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In Oklahoma public schools, academic achievement declined slightly in English and science but improved slightly in math in 2023, compared to 2022.
Absenteeism remained stubbornly high, with 1 out of 5 students missing too much school, according to the state’s data, a lingering symptom of the coronavirus pandemic.
That’s according to an Oklahoma Watch analysis of the 2023 state test scores, released Wednesday by the state Department of Education at oklaschools.com. The website also contains district and school site letter grades.
Here are three takeaways from the data.
• Math, reading and science scores didn’t change much.
There were no big swings in proficiency rates in any of the three tested subjects: reading, math and science. Proficient means a student has mastered grade-level content, while a score of basic means a student demonstrated foundational knowledge and skills.
Overall, 26% of students tested proficient or higher in math and English language arts. That’s a 1% increase in math, compared to 2022, but a 1% decrease in English.
In science, 31% of students scored proficient or higher, a 1% decline compared to 2022.
Oklahoma tests students in math and language arts once per year in grades three through eight, plus 11th. Science is assessed once in 5th, 8th and 11th grades.
• Academics have not yet recovered from the pandemic.
Coronavirus-related disruptions to student learning continue to negatively impact proficiency rates across all subjects.
Compared to pre-pandemic test scores from 2019, proficiency rates are eight percentage points lower in English language arts, six percentage points in math, and four percentage points in science.
However, more students last year met their performance goal: 47%, compared to 39% in 2019.
Annual performance goals are set by the state and vary by student group (such as white, Black, Hispanic or low-income) but move toward proficiency for all groups.
Students were not tested in 2020 or 2021 due to the pandemic.
• Students are missing too much school.
In addition to academics, Oklahoma schools are graded on student attendance using chronic absenteeism, defined as missing 10% or more of class time during a school year. The state counts all absences, excused or unexcused, unless a student misses class for a school-related activity or disability services.
Across the state, 20% of students were chronically absent last year, a half a percent increase over 2022. Some student groups were even higher: 24% of Hispanic students, 25% of economically disadvantaged and 31% of Black students were chronically absent, the data showed.
Excessive absences are more prevalent now than before the pandemic. In 2019, 14% of Oklahoma students were chronically absent.
Schools nationwide experienced excessive absences post-pandemic, but Oklahoma’s student absenteeism is not as severe. About 30% of public school students missed 10% or more of the 2021-22 school year. Research shows regular attendance is predictive of school success, and irregular attendance is linked to dropping out.
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