Pittsburgh Public School

PINJ: First pandemic state test results paint a somber picture for Pittsburgh Public Schools

Standardized test scores for the 2020-2021 school year, released by the state Department of Education today, show proficiency rates in English language arts, math and science are down significantly across the Pittsburgh Public School district — in some cases between 20 to 30 percentage points. 

Today’s release marks the first since the COVID-19 pandemic closed schools in March 2020 and scores were long-expected to be low throughout the state. National reports based on assessment information provided by districts last spring and fall indicated students had fallen behind academically during the pandemic. 

As in past years, Pittsburgh students continue to struggle with math, with Black students struggling more than white students districtwide. In two schools, Banksville K-5 and Mifflin K-8, none of the Black students scored proficient in math. 

Third-grade reading proficiency was down in all but a handful of schools. Reading proficiently by third grade is essential for students to be successful in later grades when they need to be able to read to complete coursework. 

Of the district’s elementary schools, 21 saw a drop in third-grade reading scores with the steepest declines at Fulton K-5 and Grandview K-5. Fulton’s proficiency rate plummeted 35 percentage points to 37% of students, while Grandview’s plunged 34 percentage points to just 8% of students testing proficient or above. 

Three elementary schools saw slight increases in third-grade proficiency and Minadeo PreK-5 saw a significant boost in third-grade reading proficiency, more than doubling its percentage to 52%. 

The test scores also show there continue to be wide academic achievement gaps across the district between Black and white students. Colfax K-8 students showed some of the highest proficiency rates – exceeding the state standards in English, math and science. But the school posted large gaps in performance between Black and white students with nearly 53 percentage points in English, 51 in math and nearly 61 in science.

“This means we need more supports and lots of summer programming. We need every kid to be learning something this summer, because they are behind,” said James Fogarty, executive director of A+Schools advocacy group. 

“This data lets us know within Pittsburgh where we need to target resources and support and where we need to support the teachers and connect those buildings with community partners who can help the children and their families,” Fogarty said. 

The scores released today were based on students’ performance on the Pennsylvania System of State Assessment and Keystone exams for the 2020-2021 school year. The PSSAs are given annually in English and math in grades 3-8 and in science in grades 4 and 8. The Keystone exams in English literature, algebra I and biology are given as end-of-course exams to secondary students. 

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