Students at a classroom at St. HOPE’s Public School 7 Elementary in Sacramento on May 11, 2022. Photo by Miguel Gutierrez Jr., CalMatters

(CALMATTERS) – What kind of toll did the pandemic take on public education in California? 

New test score figures, due to be published at 10 a.m. today, should help answer that question.

According to CalMatters education reporter Joe Hong, the way state education officials have slow-walked the data release suggests that the news won’t be good. Late Sunday night, the governor’s office issued a press release acknowledging that the pandemic impacted student achievement, but asserting that in a just-released national test comparison, California students performed better than those in most other states.

  • Earlier this year, the Education Department refused to release data on how California students performed on the Smarter Balanced standardized test based on state standards, saying it would do so by the end of the year — which skeptics interpreted to mean after the election.
  • The department reversed course in the face of a legal appeal and scheduled the public data release for today. But though it provided reporters with a sneak peak of the underlying data, they did it on a Sunday, making it more difficult for reporters like Joe to interview school officials and experts.

Did we mention that the Superintendent for Public Instruction Tony Thurmond is up for reelection on Nov. 8?

  • David Loy of the First Amendment Coalition: “I can’t read minds, but it does give the appearance of trying to conceal the data.”

Once the scores that assess how California students are faring based on the state’s standards are made available to the public, we’ll be updating the story, so check back.

If California’s scores are sagging, it would be part of a national trend. 

Aggregate test scores released in September hit a two year low. And a new study, based on a survey of elementary and middle schools in 12 states, estimated that shifting from in-person to fully virtual education increased standardized test score fail rates by 13 percentage points in math and 8 percentage points in reading. The study also found that schools with more Black and Latino students were more likely to stay shuttered for longer.