Report: Missouri students continue to lag behind pre-COVID academic levels; less than half are proficient

Missouri students haven’t caught up to their pre-pandemic proficiency levels and less than half are proficient, according to the most recent data from the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE). 

DESE reported preliminary 2021-22 assessment data during Tuesday’s State Board of Education meeting, revealing that students are continuing to suffer the consequences of COVID-19 policies enacted over the last two school years. 

Just 38-43% of Missouri students score proficient for their grade level, depending on the subject: 

  • ELA (English Language Arts): 43%
  • Math: 39%
  • Science: 38%
  • Social Studies: 40%

And those numbers are slightly better than the year before. 

Addressing the negative data, Commissioner of Education Margie Vandeven cited the “unique challenges” during the previous school year. 

“Nothing about this past school year was typical,” Vandeven said. “We must remain vigilant in educating our students, and I urge everyone to review the data through an informational lens, using these key takeaways to shape how state and local resources are best deployed to support ongoing student success.” 

But with a considerable $18,000 in funding per student this upcoming school year, policy experts are pressing education officials to reverse the damage. 

“Public education in Missouri is in crisis mode,” Susan Pendergrass, director of education policy for the Show-Me Institute, told The Lion. “Three out of four low-income students – which are nearly half of our students – did not score on grade level last year on the Missouri state test. The results for students with disabilities are even more troubling.  

“The budget for public education that the Missouri Legislature passed and the governor signed is $10.4 billion for this next school year. When you add local spending, we are looking at $18,000 per student. What is our leadership going to do to right this ship?” 

Missouri lawmakers also are paying attention, having ended their session earlier this year with modest progress on education. 

“While assessment data reveal an improvement from last year, it’s clear that shutting down our schools created more harm than anticipated and set a generation of students back in their education,” Rep. Josh Hurlbert, R–Smithville, told The Lion.  

More detailed assessment data for district and school levels is expected in December, according to DESE.  

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