Missouri Students Are Sadly Still Struggling
Recently, DESE released the preliminary results of the 2023 Missouri Assessment Program (MAP), and the results were bad enough to upset the Missouri Board of Education. One member stated, “These numbers are not impressive. They are kind of depressing because nothing changed.” I share these same feelings; it is sad to see over half of our students fail to adequately grasp foundational concepts.
Missouri, along with many other states, is struggling to bounce back to pre-pandemic achievement levels. In Missouri, scores have mostly recovered in math, but our English/language arts (ELA) scores have declined.
Here is a brief overview of the preliminary 2023 MAP results.
Mathematics took a bigger initial dive but has largely bounced back to its pre-pandemic levels. All cohorts of students (3rd grade, 4th grade, 5th grade, etc.,) have gradually recovered in mathematics and had a higher average score in 2023 than they did in 2021. On the other hand, only Missouri 5th graders had a higher average score for ELA in 2023 than they did in 2021. Interestingly, ELA scores are actually decreasing rather than recovering (hopefully the new LETRS program can help).
Particularly concerning are 3rd-grade and middle-school ELA levels, both of which are still much lower than pre-pandemic levels. For 3rd graders, scores slumped in 2021. Even as kids returned to school full time, scores have not increased—but have remained completely stagnant. Missouri’s 6th graders have actually had their scores decrease steadily for four straight years, with scores decreasing even before the pandemic. Compared with other grade cohorts, Missouri 6th graders have the biggest loss between pre- and post-pandemic scores. Additionally, our state’s 7th graders have had their scores drop lower every year since 2021 (8th graders dropped in 2022 and remained steady in 2023). Our middle schoolers are not rebounding from the pandemic, they are actually struggling even more in ELA.
We need drastic actions to address this education emergency. Missouri’s Commissioner of Education claimed that the teacher shortage is impacting student learning as positions are filled with substitutes or left vacant entirely. I agree that there is a teacher shortage in Missouri, but it’s concentrated in specific schools and subject areas. We need major change. Allowing school districts to offer bonuses or higher salaries to recruit and retain high need positions could help fill these roles and make the education system more responsive to the market.
These scores are concerning, but I am hopeful that these “deflating” results might motivate our legislators and districts to bring more freedom and innovation to education in our state.