Connecticut student scores down due to COVID, but schools see hopeful signs

As kids across Connecticut head back to school, new state data shows student performance is still lagging behind pre-pandemic levels. But school leaders see promising signs as classes return with no masks and relaxed COVID protocols.

John Craven

Aug 25, 2022, 9:48 PM

Updated 694 days ago

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As kids across Connecticut head back to school, new state data shows student performance is still lagging behind pre-pandemic levels. But school leaders see promising signs as classes return with no masks and relaxed COVID protocols.
"Make no mistake, we still have a lot of work to do,” said state Education Commissioner Charlene Russell-Tucker.
On Thursday, the Connecticut State Department of Education released a new Performance Index with data from the 2021-22 school year. It shows language arts proficiency dropped 3.5% from pre-pandemic levels, 4.5% for math, and 2.3% for science.
"The effects of COVID-19 are serious, and we're still feeling the ramifications of those,” said Joseph Macary, the school superintendent in Vernon.
CSDE estimates students in grades 4-5 may be up to three months behind. Middle school students could be more than a year behind in math.
Although inner-city students scored lower overall, all school systems saw Performance Index similar drops.
In western Connecticut, urban school systems dropped an average of 4% for all three subjects:
  • Bridgeport: -3.9%
  • Norwalk: -3.9%
  • Stamford: -4.4%
  • Stratford: -3.8%
But even in a wealthy suburban districts, students saw similar drops: 
  • New Canaan: -2.9%
  • Greenwich: -1.3%
  • Westport: -3.4%
However, there is some promising news. The state’s Pandemic Recovery Portal shows students are learning faster, especially kids in elementary school.
“Put simply, the faster the pace of learning, the faster the recovery,” said Ajit Gopalakrishnan, CSDE’s chief performance officer.
Schools have come up with innovative ways to get students back on track.
"We built out a position in every school that was specifically designed as a certified staff to work with students who may be, for the past two years, have been home, working off a computer,” said East Hartford Schools Superintendent Nathan Quesnel.
Charter schools stepped up too.
"We hired additional online teachers when we were remote -- teachers who had taught at our school before, but were retired,” said Ellen Retelle, the director of Integrated Day Charter Schools in Norwich. “We hired tutors for two years for every single grade level."
But much of that innovation is dependent on federal relief funding, which will run out in the coming years.
Plus, schools have a new challenge: a severe teacher shortage.

“About 400-plus shortages that were reported to us, and also about 570-plus para-professional vacancies,” said Russell-Tucker.
Schools are getting creative about hiring too.
"We have the reciprocity policy that we implemented, so we could attract educators from 11 other states and streamline the process for them to be certified here,” said Russell-Tucker.


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