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Math Proficiency Rates Show Impact of Prolonged School Closures 


I was recently enlisted to help create some visuals to help convey the concerning trend in math proficiency of Middle School students by a parent of a Montgomery County Public school student. I was eager to help, as this is precisely the data I believe was critical to have in order to make proper cost/benefit analysis of school closures and “hybrid” school.

Sadly, it was precisely the data we did not have, nor did there seem to be any major effort to collect this in real time as we were closing schools and disrupting student’s lives in the name of safety. The results, in a way, are not shocking. They ARE alarming and awful. But to the parents and students who were abandoned by public school leaders like those in Montgomery County Maryland, this was entirely expected.

I’ll let the chart below speak for itself.

Notice that the 2020 School year is missing from the Proficiency charts? That is because like many states- “Maryland received a waiver from the US Department of Education to administer a shortened statewide assessment for the 2020-2021 school year during the early fall of the 2021-2022 school year.”

This waiver seems pretty reasonable, as the 20/21 school year was fraught with disruptions, improvisation, and honestly abject chaos as parents scrambled to figure out how to deal with childcare, work, and remote school for their kids. Teachers were left with an almost impossible situation as well, and holding them accountable for something completely out of their control would have been completely unfair. Lets take a look at what the students, parents and teachers had to deal with over the last couple years.

Here’s a chart from Burbio tracking data showing the learning mode over the 2020/2021 School year for Montgomery County, MD. As you can see, not a single week of full time normal, In-person learning occurred.

Fast forward to fall 2021, the school district finally opened to in-person learning. However, over the winter of 21/22, Montgomery County Public Schools has had plenty of Covid-related disruptions. I went back to my previous analysis of Burbio data and sorted by School District to find that MCPS had 31 individual School disruptions in January. The means that of all the individual schools in the system, 31 either closed, delayed, or went to remote learning between January and February of this year alone.

Considering the scale of this unprecedented decline in Student Math proficiency, you would think this might be a major news topic for media or education journalists. Surely every parent would resonate with this story and would love to see what the school districts plan is to address this major learning loss. 

Doing a simple Google News search for Montgomery County Public Schools will give you a sense of what the local press and MCPS public relations would like us to know about the goings on over the last school year (whether this relates at all to what real parents are concerned about or no is a different question). Perusing the headlines, you will find many mentions of Covid policies, anti-racism, trans-gender policies, and climate action.

To be fair, I did find ONE article that addressed the falling test scores from September. 

I really cannot even begin to guess as to why there is a severe lack of media coverage on this issue right now. The school system has press release/media coverage on all the politically correct progressive issues being pushed by our media and government. Are these headlines and press releases coming from a place of genuine progressive commitment to fighting climate change, being inclusive of the microscopic percentage of kids with gender confusion, and anti-racism? Or are they perhaps a distraction from the reality that they do not want to face up to? 

As we begin to look in retrospect at the biggest public health/ education policy failure in recent history, it will be important to methodically collect and compare education outcome data between the school districts who stayed open in person, and those who shut students out. The results should not be surprising – but we should do the work, study the impact- and hold the leaders who stood by passively allowing this to happen, while ignoring all the warnings. 

The students, parents, and teachers of Montgomery County Public Schools have been dealt a bad hand and have been robbed of almost 2 years of quality education. 

At some point, the people who did this have to face the music and come to grips with what Covid maximalist school policies have wrought. In this case: outright failure.

Republished from Substack

Published under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
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  • Josh Stevenson

    Josh lives in Nashville Tennessee and is a data visualization expert who focuses on creating easy to understand charts and dashboards with data. Throughout the pandemic, he has provided analysis to support local advocacy groups for in-person learning and other rational, data-driven covid policies. His background is in computer systems engineering & consulting, and his Bachelor’s degree is in Audio Engineering. His work can be found on his substack “Relevant Data.”

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