Student Performance Struggled Post-Pandemic

MCPS year-to-year data showing literacy skills in grades K-3.

by Elsie Rozario ‘24

The Covid-19 pandemic had a large impact on student performance. According to the Education Recovery Score Card, students nationwide lost around half a year of learning in math and around a third of the year in reading. Standardized testing data indicates a sharp decrease in reading scores, especially for younger students who received online instruction during their early elementary school years. For instance, a larger proportion of students in Grade 4 performed NAEP Basic (partial mastery of grade level content) in 2022 than 2019, with many 8th graders also performing worse than they had in previous years.

MCPS was not exempt from these struggles with distance learning, especially regarding its younger students. DIBELS (Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills) scores from 2022 indicate that 53 percent of kindergarten students fell below the benchmark in Montgomery County, with 1st and 2nd grade students performing only slightly better. Learning loss was also an issue with MCPS middle and high schools, especially in English Language Proficiency.
In order to reverse the trend of students falling behind, additional federal aid was given to schools to accelerate learning. As schools across the nation reopened, many took advantage of this funding to hire more staff and implement supplemental academic programs, such as tutoring, summer school, and other student supports. Schools also attempted to cover more academic content in a single school year. These methods showed results, with the Education Recovery Score Card reporting that students recovered a third of their loss in math and a fourth of their loss in reading between 2022 and 2023. Despite this, a sizable deficit still remains and students still are catching up.

MCPS also began to change its approach on learning following the pandemic, especially by expanding school resources. More teacher-screening tools and student-tutoring services were added to better identify and address student needs in the classroom. MCPS focused on increasing resources for English Language Arts (ELA) and mathematics following the drop in student performance in those areas. Early elementary school classes, especially kindergarten, began to place more emphasis on phonics and fluency.

MCPS’s learning recovery plan has resulted in significant improvements, especially with elementary school students. In 2023, 58 percent of 1st grade students and 60.4 percent of 2nd grade students were at or above the DIBELS benchmark. Kindergarten students saw the most progress following the implementation of MCPS’s recovery plan. with kindergarten literacy rates rising from 24 percent to 72 percent in 2023 according to Montgomery Community Media.
Despite all the improvements made, a large educational gap still exists within the county. MCPS reports uneven progress in math across MCPS schools and gaps in early elementary school literacy despite the curriculum changes. According to the 2022-2023 Maryland Report Card, MCPS elementary schools did not meet the annual target for academic achievement, while MCPS high schools did not meet the target for academic achievement, graduation, or English language proficiency. This year, MCPS plans to continue monitoring student learning and focus on ELA and mathematics resources.