Pandemic learning loss hits New York City minority students hardest

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ByDan Krauth via WABC logo
Monday, November 21, 2022
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Standardized test results show an overall drop in learning, especially in some of New York City's poorest areas. Dan Krauth has the story.

NEW YORK (WABC) -- Students experienced setbacks during the pandemic but for the first time, test results are showing just how much learning has been lost.

Standardized test results show an overall drop in learning, especially in some of New York City's poorest areas.

All students were required to take standardized tests last spring for the first time since the pandemic. 7 On Your Side Investigates analyzed results for third grade math and English proficiency exams. They're the youngest students to take the exams at a crucial point in learning.

"I wasn't surprised, I expected some level of a dip given the pandemic," said special education teacher Chanel Quintero, who has been teaching the Bronx for the past decade.

Quintero says students struggled to learn from home.

"During the pandemic the main challenge was finding space so they could focus and concentrate, especially if they had other siblings in the household who were learning simultaneously," she said.

District wide, the amount of third grade students who were proficient in English dropped by 4% compared to the year before the pandemic. The amount of those found proficient in math dropped by almost 5%.

You can search your own neighborhood to see English and math results.

English Results:

Math Results:

The area with the lowest test results were in districts 7 and 9 in the south and west Bronx where about 70% of Black and Latino students failed to show proficiency on both exams.

"A lot of our families still had to work throughout the pandemic, they worked for supermarkets, they worked in nurses offices, they were home health aides, so there was a lot of self-governance," Quintero said.

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On top of that, students returned this fall to face the reality of budget cuts due to declining enrollment district wide. At Quintero's school, the before and after school programs have been cut, along with Saturday academy. The school also has fewer teachers.

"The most vulnerable children are suffering as a result of the pandemic," said Jasmine Gripper, who is the director of the Alliance for Quality Education in New York. "I don't want to say like they're doomed from now on but we need to do these interventions immediately and with urgency and make sure students are on track or get back on track to meeting their full potential."

We took their concerns to the NYC Department of Education.

"We have now an entire academic integration team and we've allocated intervention specialists, academic intervention specialists to every district," Deputy Chancellor Carolyne Quintana said.

Deputy Chancellor Quintana said the biggest shift in outcomes happens in the classroom not in after school programs, so that's where their focusing on the basics, like core curriculum. She also said they're moving around what's called literacy coaches to the areas that need them most.

"I think so long as we can dig in and support on another and make sure that we are focused on that high quality curriculum," Quintana said. "It goes back to the core instruction."

Some teachers said that's what they've been doing. They believe the district should focus on shifting dollars and more resources to vulnerable communities that need it most.

"Our kids are worth so much more than what you're giving us and we can do everything with what we've got but you know, the extra definitely helps," Quintero said. "See our children for who they area and how hard they work and what they've had to overcome, versus just numbers and percentages on the spreadsheet."

ABC data journalist Frank Esposito contributed to this story.

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