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National testing shows Colorado students are struggling post-pandemic

Colorado fourth and eighth graders showed regression in math proficiency and a slight decline in reading proficiency. Teachers are trying to fix that.

LAKEWOOD, Colo. — In the first national testing results since the COVID-19 pandemic, Colorado fourth and eighth graders showed regression in math proficiency and a slight decline in reading proficiency.

The National Assessment of Educational Progress found regression in students nationwide. The results found 36% of fourth graders were proficient in math compared to 44% in 2019 before the pandemic. 27% of Colorado eighth graders were proficient in math compared to 36% in 2019.

“It confirmed what we had already seen,” Dr. Kym LeBlanc-Esparza, a deputy superintendent in Jefferson County Public Schools, said. “I’ve been doing this for 35 years and I’ve never seen this kind of impact on student learning.”

LeBlanc-Esparza said state data, as well as frequent internal assessments, have shown that students are behind because of time they lost in the classroom during the pandemic.

“When you think about our current kindergarteners…they never went to pre-school,” she said. “During the time that they would have normally gone…it didn’t exist.”

“[They missed out on] learning to cooperate, learning to focus, learning to listen to someone else directing what to do with your time…just some of the background things we’d expect kids to have when they walk into the classroom… they didn’t,” LeBlanc-Esparza said.

She said school districts are already implementing plans to try to make up some of that learning loss.

In JeffCo, she said much of the focus has been on high dosage tutoring.

“High dosage tutoring is something that folks are seeing significant impacts on student learning by being really purposeful, intentional with small groups of 1 to 4 students an hour three times a week. Really focused in on specific skills that kids don’t have,” LeBlanc-Esparza said.

“Making sure that the groups are small and that they do it during the school day… so that there’s not an inequity for students who can’t stay after school or students who transportation might be an impact," she added.

LeBlanc-Esparza said though his learning loss is unprecedented, she believes kids will make it through it.

“Children are remarkable… they’re capable of far more than we give them credit for,” she said. “That’s not to be flippant about this and that’s not to blow it off in any way shape or form. We’ve got to be intentional. We’ve got to give them as much maximum time at learning as we can.”

“It’s going to take a few years. Just like it takes a few years to have that impact," LeBlanc-Esparza said. "It takes a few years to make up for that impact.”

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