Reykdal: ‘Really unfair’ to judge Washington students based on recent dip in test scores

Jan 27, 2022, 3:18 PM | Updated: Jan 28, 2022, 8:54 am
Students test scores...
(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Recent data from Washington’s Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction indicated that test scores for the state’s students dropped during the COVID-19 pandemic. Even so, Superintendent Chris Reykdal says those numbers lack some much-needed context.

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Between 2019 and 2021, the overall percentage of students who met state standards on the math portion of the exam fell by 20%. Just 30% of public school students in grades 4-11 met standards in math, and in English, the portion of kids who met the standard fell 9%.

While some have blamed remote or hybrid learning models for the drop, Reykdal believes that such an assertion ignores a host of other factors that play into how we evaluate the success of students.

“Let’s make sure we understand the scope of the whole thing,” he told KIRO Newsradio’s Gee Scott & Ursula Reutin Show. “Test scores across the country are down, even in states that didn’t go remote — we saw this everywhere. Clearly something bigger is going on than just the nature of whether you were a remote district or a hybrid district or in person.”

“The other thing we always try to remind folks is never think of a test score as if the student is able or not able,” he added.

And even while testing is largely geared toward evaluating what students should know for university admissions, “half our students don’t go that route,” Reykdal said, instead opting for apprenticeships, military service, full-time work, community colleges, or technical colleges.

Given that, Reykdal says focusing too much on test scores can put an unfair burden on the students themselves.

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“The headline is our kids aren’t making it, which is just really, really unfair,” he opined. “They didn’t unlearn anything they’ve learned in their career, they just weren’t progressing at the same rate that we expect them to, and we’ve got a lot of work to do to make sure they’re on track.”

Reykdal also points out that the relative success of any given student can be judged on other factors as well, including their daily classwork, labs, oral exams, and written assignments. When balancing all that with test scores — which are designed more to represent benchmarks in specific areas — a much fuller picture comes into focus.

“Our students are still producing amazing results, but there are these objective exams that we give,” he described. “If we think you should know fractions at a certain place in 4th grade and you’re a little bit behind on a national test, well, maybe your test score doesn’t come out as well. It doesn’t mean the kid didn’t learn a ton of stuff leading up to that, they’re just a little bit behind the benchmark we would want them at this age for that subject.”

Listen to Gee Scott and Ursula Reutin weekday mornings from 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. on KIRO Newsradio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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Reykdal: ‘Really unfair’ to judge Washington students based on recent dip in test scores