Students in Hoover City Schools for the most part did not see further academic slide in the 2020-21 school year due to COVID-19, but they still have not caught up to where they need to be, a central office administrator told the school board this week.
Most of the learning loss that occurred appears to have occurred in the spring of 2020 when all students missed a greater amount of in-person instruction, administrator Ron Dodson said.
The percentage of students performing at or above grade level on benchmark tests this spring remained the same as it was in the fall, Dodson said.
That means 58% of students were performing at or above grade level in math at the beginning and end of this school year, and 62% of students were performing at or above grade level in reading at both times.
However, those numbers are below what they were two years ago — the last time students were given benchmark tests in the spring, Dodson said.
Two years ago, 69% of students in Hoover City Schools were at or above grade level in math, and 66% of students were at or above grade level in reading, he said. That represents an 11 percentage point drop in math and 4 percentage point drop in reading.
The percentage of students needing intervention in math (scoring in the 25th national percentile or lower on benchmark tests) increased 1 percentage point from the fall (from 19% to 20%), and the percentage of students needing intervention in reading increased 2 percentage points from the fall (from 16% to 18%).
However, there were fewer students needing intervention at this point two years ago. In the spring of 2019, only 13% of Hoover students needed intervention in math and 14% needed intervention in reading, Dodson said.
The percentage of Hoover students meeting annual growth targets at the end of this school year was 57% in both math and reading — an increase of 3 percentage points in math and 2 percentage points in reading from benchmark tests given this past winter.
Also, the achievement gap between black students and white students increased notably from the fall, Dodson said.
In the fall, white students outperformed black students by 25 percentage points on benchmark tests in math, and in the spring, white students outperformed black students by 36 percentage points in math, Dodson said.
In reading, the achievement gap grew from 22 percentage points to 29 percentage points between the fall and spring, he said.
Dodson said he believes the fact that a higher percentage of black students remained in full virtual instruction played a factor in the widening of that gap.
As a whole, it was harder to get students the help they needed if they were learning remotely, Dodson said.
However, Dodson also noted that the achievement gap between black and white students in reading actually decreased by 5 percentage points from where it was in the spring of 2019.
A lot of that likely is due to the emphasis that had been put on reading before COVID hit, Dodson said. Now, there’s a greater need to improve math skills, he said.
The COVID-19 pandemic and quarantine requirements kept 54% of students in Hoover schools (7,263 students) and 41% of employees (783 employees) quarantined for two weeks or more during the past school year, Dodson said.
Thirteen percent of those students and 33% of those employees actually tested positive for COVID-19, he said.
The percentage of students who chose full-time virtual learning decreased from 30% in the first semester to 22% in the second semester, Dodson said.
Also, students who initially chose in-person instruction spent 43% of their instruction time learning remotely in the first semester due to required schedules that put them in school only two days per week, but in the second semester, only 6% of their time was spent learning remotely with a staggered schedule, Dodson said. That’s because — with the exception of quarantined children — all kids who chose in-person instruction were back in school five days a week by February, he said.