LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Fewer than half of Jefferson County Public Schools students at most schools tested at grade level in math and language arts diagnostic tests administered this fall, according to data obtained by WDRB News.

The results, provided by JCPS in response to an open records request, give the district its first look at where current students are in their learning after the COVID-19 pandemic upended the previous two school years.

The 2021-22 school year is the first time students at JCPS have been in classrooms on traditional schedules since March 2020, when school districts throughout Kentucky ceased in-person learning for the closing months of the 2019-20 school year at the behest of Gov. Andy Beshear at the onset of the pandemic.

Classrooms at JCPS remained closed until March and April, when many students returned for in-person instruction two days a week on hybrid schedules near the end of the 2020-21 school year. Students with disabilities in kindergarten through fifth grade returned to classes four days a week under the district's reopening plan at the time.

The results are “exactly” what JCPS Chief Academic Officer Carmen Coleman expected. NWEA, the nonprofit group that provides the diagnostic tests, called Measures of Academic Progress, conducted a study in the spring that showed declines in reading and math scores among students.

The district’s MAP scores “mirror” the results of that study, she said.

“Math seemed to suffer the most, and so I really anticipated that same outcome, and sure enough, that’s what we’re seeing across the country,” Coleman said in an interview Friday. “… Certainly the picture it paints is bleak, but I have a lot of hope and I have a lot of faith in our students and in our teachers.”

The MAP test results for JCPS show:

  • Fewer than half of kindergarten students at 52 of 91 JCPS schools tested at grade level in language arts.
  • Fewer than half of kindergarten students at 50 of 91 JCPS schools tested at grade level in math.
  • Fewer than half of first-grade students at 71 of 91 JCPS schools tested at grade level in language arts.
  • Fewer than half of first-grade students at 67 of 91 JCPS schools tested at grade level in math.
  • Fewer than half of second-grade students at 76 of 91 JCPS schools tested at grade level in language arts.
  • Fewer than half of second-grade students at 75 of 91 JCPS schools tested at grade level in math.
  • Fewer than half of third-grade students at 63 of 91 JCPS schools tested at grade level in language arts.
  • Fewer than half of third-grade students at 75 of 91 JCPS schools tested at grade level in math.
  • Fewer than half of fourth-grade students at 62 of 91 JCPS schools tested at grade level in language arts.
  • Fewer than half of fourth-grade students at 79 of 91 JCPS schools tested at grade level in math.
  • Fewer than half of fifth-grade students at 68 of 93 JCPS schools tested at grade level in language arts.
  • Fewer than half of fifth-grade students at 80 of 93 JCPS schools tested at grade level in math.
  • Fewer than half of sixth-grade students at 21 of 30 JCPS schools tested at grade level in language arts.
  • Fewer than half of sixth-grade students at 27 of 30 JCPS schools tested at grade level in math.
  • Fewer than half of seventh-grade students at 18 of 31 JCPS schools tested at grade level in language arts.
  • Fewer than half of seventh-grade students at 26 of 31 JCPS schools tested at grade level in math.
  • Fewer than half of eighth-grade students at 20 of 32 JCPS schools tested at grade level in language arts.
  • Fewer than half of eighth-grade students at 26 of 31 JCPS schools tested at grade level in math.
  • Fewer than half of freshmen at 19 of 28 JCPS schools tested at grade level in language arts.
  • Fewer than half of freshmen at 23 of 28 JCPS schools tested at grade level in math.
  • Fewer than half of sophomores at 15 of 23 JCPS schools tested at grade level in language arts.
  • Fewer than half of sophomores at 19 of 24 JCPS schools tested at grade level in math.
  • Fewer than half of juniors at eight of nine JCPS schools tested at grade level in language arts.
  • Fewer than half of juniors at 13 of 14 JCPS schools tested at grade level in math.
  • Fewer than a third of seniors at four JCPS schools tested at grade level in language arts.
  • Up to a quarter of seniors at four JCPS schools tested at grade level in math. Three of the JCPS schools that reported MAP testing results for seniors – Newcomer Academy, Phoenix School of Discovery and the Georgia Chaffee Teenage Parent Program – are specialized programs while the other, Liberty High, is an alternative school.

JCPS did not include grade-level results when fewer than 10 students in each grade were tested, citing student privacy.

Several schools saw no students testing at grade level or posted single-digit rates in the latest round of MAP testing.

Those schools often serve some of the district’s most underprivileged children.

Frayser Elementary, for instance, had no students testing at grade level in math in third and fourth grades and in language arts in fourth grade. About 91% of Frayser Elementary’s students qualify for free or reduced-price school meals, district enrollment data show.

Newcomer Academy – which serves students learning English as a second language, many of whom have never enrolled in U.S. schools or have experienced learning interruptions in their native countries – had no students testing at grade level in math in sixth, seventh, ninth and 11th grades and in language arts in seventh, eighth, ninth, 10th, 11th and 12th grades, in another example.

Coleman expects MAP scores will improve as the school year progresses and students continue learning in classrooms. MAP assessments will be administered again from Nov. 22 through Dec. 17 and from March 21, 2022, through April 22, 2022.

Had the COVID-19 pandemic not disrupted learning at JCPS, Coleman thinks the district “would have made lots more progress around achievement gaps and accelerating students forward.”

“That's disheartening for anybody, but I also believe that we will have incredible growth,” Coleman said in response to low grade-level scores posted at some schools. “… Kids are really resilient, and I believe that our teachers are doing everything possible and more, and so I believe we will see some really exciting growth at Christmas time.”

MAP tests were administered between Aug. 23 and Sept. 17 and provide JCPS a clearer view of where students stand academically than the results of last year’s Kentucky Summative Assessment, which showed lagging participation rates among students throughout Kentucky compared to past standardized tests.

JCPS lagged statewide participation and proficiency rates in nearly every KSA category, according to state testing data.

About 15,000 JCPS students in third, fourth and fifth grades took KSA tests in reading and math and about 5,000 fifth-grade students took state writing exams, state participation data show. Some 13,800 JCPS students in sixth, seventh and eighth grade completed reading and math KSA exams and about 4,400 eighth-grade students were tested in writing, according to state data.

Approximately 3,800 JCPS sophomores took state reading and math assessments while about 2,800 juniors took the KSA writing exam, state data show.

By comparison, JCPS tested at least 41,298 elementary school students, 19,756 middle school students and 12,279 high school students in language arts and at least 39,620 elementary school students, 19,789 middle school students and 13,004 high school students in math during the latest round of MAP assessments, according to numbers provided by the district.

Superintendent Marty Pollio, among those who lamented the U.S. Department of Education’s decision to require state standardized testing during the 2020-21 school year after granting broad waivers to states the year prior, said after KSA results were released that MAP scores would provide JCPS a more “accurate picture” of where students stand academically.

“Many of our kids, we’re going to have to provide intensive support to get back to where they were, but that is the crisis in education,” Pollio said in September, referencing the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on learning.

Coleman agreed, noting that most JCPS students took MAP assessments in August and September.

“MAP is about providing that instructional next step, and the state test doesn't do that for us,” she said. “The kids have already moved on. That's not the purpose of the state assessment.”

JCPS is approaching the challenge of helping students who have struggled academically in a multifaceted manner, including looking at remediation in a different way, Coleman said. The district has worked with the Council of the Great City Schools and followed guidance from the Kentucky Department of Education, she said.

The district is working with teachers to ensure all students are exposed to grade-level standards while focusing on areas in which they’ve struggled, exploring extended learning opportunities and looking to leverage federal stimulus money to provide better supports for students, such as hiring retired teachers to help them during classes, she said.

“What research shows us over and over is that we often become so caught up in trying to remediate that we forget that they need to continue to move forward as well,” Coleman said. “… Despite our best intentions, we spend so much time trying to catch them up that, in reality, what's happening is they're making very slow progress and getting more and more behind.”

The process of helping JCPS students recover academically may take years because of the unprecedented disruption in learning during the COVID-19 pandemic, but the district is implementing “research-based practices” for that work, she said.

“I think it's important, too, for parents to remember  that kids have continued to learn, and so we are doing everything we can and we are trying to make really informed decisions in school to make sure that they catch up,” she said.

Math and language arts MAP scores by school and by grade can be downloaded here:

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