FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 19, 2023
Over the past two weeks, the South Carolina Department of Education has released results from state assessments for the 2022-23 school year. While the Palmetto State Teachers Association believes standardized assessments should never be used as the sole measure of student achievement, PSTA celebrates the hard work of students, professional educators, and families that resulted in scores that, in many subjects, exceeded student performance levels prior to the disruptions caused by the pandemic.
For the past three years, the narrative of “learning loss” resulting from the pandemic has dominated conversations about education, but this narrative was always incomplete for two core reasons. First, the primary evidence of “learning loss” was drawn almost exclusively from standardized test scores. While these assessments can provide useful information about student performance during a snapshot in time, they can never provide the depth of insight into student achievement available to the certified teachers working and learning with students on a daily basis.
Second, the narrative of “learning loss” implied that students had literally “lost” previously learned material, but annual standardized assessments are aligned to standards for the current school year, not to content from prior school years. As a result, post-pandemic scores were more about “instructional loss” for students stemming from factors like illness, economic uncertainty for families, quarantine periods, educator shortages, and a generational youth mental health crisis. Framed in this light, the narrative about student learning in South Carolina was never a question of if students could succeed; instead, it was about when would conditions improve sufficiently for students to unlock their potential.
The recent scores provide proof that South Carolina students and educators can produce remarkable results when provided with the necessary time, resources, and support. Over the past three years, the work of South Carolina educators has been nothing short of incredible given the persistent challenges of the post-pandemic world and an ever-growing educator shortage. Compared to recent years, the test scores from 2022-23 are evidence that time working with a highly-qualified educator is the most important academic resource South Carolina can provide for students. Of course, this year’s scores also show there is far more work to be done in order for all students to realize their potential. Achieving that goal must start with supporting and celebrating the work of current educators while creating the conditions necessary to recruit the additional educator talent needed in schools.
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