Sep 8, 2022 - News

Des Moines students recovering from pandemic learning loss

Des Moines Public Schools' 5th grader proficiency rates
Data: Iowa Department of Education; Note: 2019–20 missing due to the COVID–19 pandemic; Chart: Nicki Camberg/Axios

Students in the Des Moines school district are starting to recover their standardized test scores after the pandemic disrupted their learning, according to results shared on Wednesday.

Why it matters: It's a positive sign that returning to the normal pace of school is getting students back on track.

State of play: The majority of Des Moines' fifth-grade students improved from the previous year.

  • In reading and science, they actually exceeded pre-pandemic levels, according to results from the Iowa Statewide Assessment of Student Progress.

Yes, but: Declines continued in math, dropping from 46% proficiency in 2020-21 to 43% proficiency last year.

  • The majority of the state saw 5th grade math scores improve.
  • Interim Superintendent Matt Smith contributed Des Moines' decline to teacher shortages and a new math curriculum that was not properly put in place, the Register reports.

Of note: 8th and 10th grade DMPS students also saw improvements in their language arts and science test scores.

Between the lines: The urban district is the largest in the state and has a significantly more diverse and lower-income student population who were disproportionately hurt by the pandemic.

The big picture: Des Moines' 5th grade proficiency rates are still lower in comparison to surrounding suburban schools, like West Des Moines who scored 65% language arts proficiency and Urbandale who scored 75%.

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