Statewide testing shows in-person learning better; increase in chronic absenteeism

Numbers also show a statewide increase in chronic absenteeism and highlight a growing achievement gap.
Published: Dec. 6, 2021 at 5:52 PM CST
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - Statewide testing numbers for Nebraska schools are out for the 2020-2021 school year and show Lincoln schools scoring above the state average in a variety of assessments. Numbers also show a statewide increase in chronic absenteeism and highlight a growing achievement gap.

Within Lincoln Public Schools, in-person students scored higher on proficiency tests in comparison to remote learners. Dr. Matt Larson, the associate superintendent for instruction, said there is no better place to learn than the classroom.

“There is simply no replacement for being in the classroom for instruction,” said Larson. “Working closely with a teacher, building that relationship and having an opportunity to collaborate and work with peers in the classroom.”

In spite of in-person learners scoring higher in proficiency, grades were down overall for the 2020-21 school year.

“Last year was challenging,” said Larson. “Our teachers were teaching in a hybrid environment, had as much as one-fifth to one-fourth of their students as remote learners. That simply presents some challenges.”

Larson also said there is no plan to continue remote learning after the end of this school year.

Across the state, chronic absenteeism was up. Chronic absenteeism is when a student misses 10% of their time in school. Statewide absenteeism was up 7% from the 2018-2019 school year. In LPS, absenteeism was also up 7%.

“They’re having a remote learning setting where they just don’t log on,” said David Jespersen with the Nebraska Department of Education. “Teachers complained through the year, we heard this anecdotally across the state, that they lost kids. Students who just didn’t show up.”

Achievement gaps seemed to open up too. Students of color were almost always scoring lower in proficiency than white students. See below percent-proficiency charts for the differences between students of different races.

LPS Achievement Gap in English Language Arts
LPS Achievement Gap in English Language Arts(Brett Baker)

There were also some positives to take away from the assessment. Statewide, nearly 50% of students were on track to be college and career ready in both Mathematics and English Language Arts. Nebraska students also scored above the national average in the most recent National Assessment of Education Progress. Nationwide, Nebraska’s ACT scores were second highest among the states that had tested 80% or more of their students.

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