OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Today, the Nebraska Department of Education released its annual school assessment results measuring students' academic performance in English Language Arts and Math.
There is a statewide drop in scores with most experts blaming the pandemic.
Nebraska Department of Education's PIO David Jespersen says statewide scores are down on average by about 6 percent in math and 4 percent in English.
"We had a lot of kids that didn't test, that's one of the first things I'd like to point out, we usually have more than 99 percent participation on these tests, we dropped to 94 percent," Jespersen said.
1.5 percent of students did not participate in testing at Bennington Public Schools.
"66 percent of our students proficient versus 74 percent in English the year prior — so we've been in the 70 percents and now we dropped into the 60 percents, so some drop," Assistant Superintendent Dee Hoge said.
Omaha Public Schools also saw a decline in percentages. Only 28 percent of students are proficient in Language Arts and 20 percent are proficient in math. That's a drop from scores in the 2018 to2019 school year, when scores were up 5 and 10 percent respectively.
Jespersen says thousands missed out on the test across the state.
"About 8,500 students didn't take that test, that's a concern certainly. That changes the proficiency levels, that changes the results significantly. Really, when you look at the results, statewide, it's tough to compare from previous years because the world is a very different place from two years ago," Jespersen said.
Chronic absenteeism was also cited as a contributing factor in the proficiency drop. A student is considered "chronically absent" if they miss ten days or more of classroom instruction, whether it's remote or in-person learning.
"We had more than a fifth of Nebraska students labeled as chronically absent that year, we know research shows that a student is impacted negatively, academically if they miss four days of learning during the school year," Jespersen said.
To maintain consistency in students' scores, Jespersen says it's important that districts use this as a baseline to see how they can improve.
"Strategically use their resources to bring those students up to the rest of the students and move forward out of the pandemic," Jespersen said.
3 News Now reached out to several districts for a statement.
Omaha Public Schools
"For more than a year, our students, staff and families have demonstrated perseverance and resilience during this global pandemic. Despite challenges caused by the pandemic, our district remains relentlessly focused on student learning and well-being. We are also committed to ensuring our staff receives high-quality professional development to support our student needs. We will continue to use all available information and leverage every opportunity to support student success."
Bellevue Public Schools
"We'll review our student assessment data and just like any year there will always be room for growth. We are keeping in mind that our students took a pilot test during a pandemic. We also focus on our MAP data, as we provide that assessment up to 3 times per school year. MAP provides the history and stability needed as we identify and work to address any gaps in student learning."
Westside Community Schools
"We are studying our data and not surprised we saw a minor dip in some areas while in a global pandemic."