Tests: About 56 percent of students met or exceeded standards for math. Matthew Hall

Amid national concern regarding loss of learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District (SMMUSD) is reporting the pandemic and transition to online learning had little to no effect on student performance outcomes based on standardized test results. 

District-wide data from the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) from the 2021-2022 school year showed an increase of 1% in the number of students meeting or exceeding standards for English Language Arts at 75% and a 3% decrease for math at 58%, compared to scores from the 2018-2019 school year. The data presented is considered preliminary and district officials were told it was for “planning purposes only.”

This data was presented at last week’s Sept. 14 School Board meeting by Assistant Superintendent Jacqueline Mora and Director of Assessment, Research and Evaluation Stacy Williamson, who said that the differences were “statistically insignificant.”

“We [SMMUSD] are an outlier in what has been reported with the state scores this year,” Williamson said. “We do have some student groups that we need to address but overall we have some great things to celebrate.”

Superintendent Ben Drati also commented on the data.

“The unfortunate part is what could have happened had there not been a physical school closure – so I don’t want to pretend that didn’t have any impact on learning because I do believe that we probably could have done better, had more of a growth, but we’re seeing that we stayed status-quo.”

Drati, Mora and Williamson added that while they were not seeing significant differences in overall student testing outcomes, the data does show significant gaps along racial and ethnic lines in test results. 

“We know that there was a gap prior to the physical closure and that gap continues to exist,” Mora said. 

2021-2022 districtwide CAASPP data showed that for math only 34% of Black students and 39% of Latino students were meeting or exceeding standards compared to 69% of white students and 81% of Asian students. For English language arts 53% of Black students and 60% of Latino students met or exceeded standards compared to 83% of White students and 88% of Asian students.

“We’re talking about historically marginalized communities and groups in America that, whether it be healthcare, law enforcement or education, have had the short end of the stick…” Drati said. “We need to make sure that we understand what’s happening there in order to reverse the trends.” 

In response to the data, School Board members acknowledged the pandemic may still have had consequences for student development. 

“One of the things that’s not really measurable by data is the loss of social-emotional learning,” said Board Member Laurie Lieberman. “So I just want to call that out and say that I appreciate and I know that our teachers and everyone is working on providing support for addressing that even though it’s not measured the way we measure math scores.” 

SMMUSD students are scheduled to take multiple standardized tests this school year to continue to track their progress, including the STAR Report which will allow teachers to see specific areas in need of improvement.