New analysis reveals impact of interrupted instruction on student learning in English Language Arts and math

Press Release

The New York Equity Coalition calls on state to invest in evidence-based supports to accelerate academic recovery for students most impacted

NEW YORK – A new analysis of recently released assessment results from the New York State Department of Education reveals the impact of interrupted instruction on student learning in English Language Arts (ELA) and math.  

Statewide, less than half of all students in grades three through eight are proficient in ELA and math.  And while there were gains in ELA and losses in math proficiency across all racial groups, the proficiency gaps between student groups are alarmingly wide.   

Students of color and those with low-income backgrounds were suffering from deep inequities and opportunity gaps even before the pandemic, and these same students were disproportionately impacted by school closures and prolonged remote instruction. 

This data provides the public with an important snapshot of the impact of the pandemic on student literacy and numeracy skills and allows districts to drive resources and support to the students who most need them. 

Among the findings of the analysis: 

  • Less than half of all students in grades three through eight are proficient in ELA and math.   
  • Year-over-year comparison reveals a 6 percentage point decline in 3rd and 4th grade ELA proficiency, a key indicator of future student success, since 2019.  
  • Across all racial groups, there are higher ELA proficiency rates than math. 
  • Across all racial groups, middle school students performed better than elementary students in ELA. The inverse is true for math. 
  • Proficiency rates for students from low-income backgrounds continue to lag the rates of their more affluent peers in both math and ELA. 
  • Across all racial groups, there were gains in ELA and losses in math proficiency; however, the proficiency gaps between racial groups are alarmingly wide. 
  • Across school types and geographic differences, math proficiency decreased relative to ELA and math proficiency varies widely.   
  • There was a year-over-year decline in math proficiency for all students, including 8th grade, another key indicator of future student success.  

These findings underscore the critical need for districts to drive resources to the students most in need of additional support to master the skills appropriate for their grade level.  

The state of New York received $14 billion in federal pandemic relief aid since 2020 and as of August 2022, had spent only 19% of available funding. Additional funding combined with concerning assessment data provides districts with an unprecedented opportunity to invest in evidence-based materials to accelerate academic recovery.

The New York Equity Coalition calls on state and local education leaders to focus on:   

  • Advancing efforts in early literacy through evidence-based instruction aligned to the science of reading. 
  • Spending federal relief dollars with urgency in alignment with student needs. 
  • Providing targeted academic and social-emotional support to student subgroups that are performing below proficiency.  
  • Investing in high quality, evidence-based instructional materials and other resources to accelerate learning in math.  
  • Collecting academic data often and using it to target instruction throughout the school year. Launching a statewide tutoring corps.  

“A student’s demography should not determine their destiny, yet these data show that the education systems across New York are falling short of that promise,” said Dia Bryant, executive director of The Education Trust–New York. “New York will feel the impact of the pandemic for decades to come – in our homes, our communities, and our workforce. And that is exactly why we must act with urgency to use this new assessment data as was always intended – to drive resources to the students and schools who remain farthest from opportunity. 

“The assessment data affords us a clear picture of where state resources must be allocated to improve student outcomes in a meaningful way,” said Martha Kamber, president and CEO of Brooklyn YWCA. 

“It is a failure for gaps to exist in math and ELA proficiency between demographic groups when we have the evidence needed to take critical steps toward course correction that will ultimately lead to higher student success in the future. We are optimistic about how this data can be used to support local decision-making that will have a strong impact on our public schools.” 

“Reading these findings is disheartening,” said Ivy Diggs-Washington, director of workforce development at the Buffalo Urban League. “Students in the afterschool programming at the Buffalo Urban League have expressed that they feel left behind and unprepared. We are hopeful that educational leaders at both the state and local levels will place more emphasis on supporting academic recovery by investing in programs and evidence-based recourses with a focus on lessening the education gap between students from low-income households and their more affluent peers. We believe that this action will better prepare students for further education and better opportunities.” 

“While not surprising, the recently released assessment data are alarming,” said Mark Eagan, president and CEO of Capital Region Chamber of Commerce.  “Fortunately, the recommendations that we are putting forth will go a long way to address the academic gaps that have existed for far too long. And thankfully, the state currently has federal pandemic relief aid that can be used to implement these recommendations now. I encourage our state and local leaders to do just that.” 

“The release of statewide assessment data from the 2021-2022 school year underscores the importance of having consistent, objective data to understand where students need targeted supports,” said Ramon Peguero, president & CEO of the Committee for Hispanic Children & Families (CHCF). “With the disruptions of the pandemic, it is critical that New York take swift action to use the billions of dollars in available federal funding that is yet to be spent on evidence-based instruction and resources to address the persistent and exacerbated inequities of our school system on students of color, students from low-income backgrounds, students with disabilities and English Language Learners. The Committee for Hispanic Children & Families (CHCF) joins our partners in the New York Equity Coalition in calling on New York State to ensure districts are acting with expediency and intention in implementing evidence-based interventions and supports, specifically for student subgroups who continue to face inequities in access to support and opportunities.”