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Utah second graders struggling post-pandemic, but most students recovering, report says

Oct 12, 2022, 2:02 PM | Updated: Nov 19, 2022, 12:09 am

SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah State Board of Education on Tuesday released its first school report card since the COVID-19 pandemic.

The report found student academic performance is recovering in English language arts, mathematics, and science, but educators say there is still a ways to go to return to pre-pandemic achievement levels in schools.

“The pandemic took an awful toll on all of our lives and on many of our institutions,” said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Sydnee Dickson. “It negatively impacted our students, teachers, and families. This report gives us a clear-eyed picture of what happened. While the academic impact was not as bad as many feared, it shows us that students and teachers are on the road to academic recovery while not yet reaching the guidepost of excellence.”

One group that is still struggling from the pandemic is second graders, according to Darin Nielsen, the assistant superintendent for student achievement with the Utah State Board of Education. Current second graders were in kindergarten in 2020 when the pandemic hit, and have had to overcome obstacles caused by remote learning and social distancing measures.

“That grade level is not performing like we would expect,” Nielsen said. “That group, we need to for sure target additional supports at a statewide level.”

Ali Larsen’s youngest child is in second grade, and Larsen said she has noticed a difference in her reading skills since the pandemic.

“I think she has struggled a little bit with trying to get the love for it, because it was such a disruption and not being there as much for it,” she said.

She isn’t surprised to see that second graders were hit hardest due to the pandemic. She has three older children, and says they have all bounced back to their pre-pandemic benchmarks, while her second grader is still trying to catch up.

“The overall takeaway, from my perspective, is the positive. … We’re seeing evidence of recovery,” Nielsen said.

For now, Larsen is doing what she can to put in extra time with her daughter to make reading a constant part of every day.

“Reading in the car, taking books with her everywhere you go, getting her more familiar with all of it,” she said.

State, district and individual school report cards for the 2021-22 school year are available at the Utah State Board of Education website, utahschoolgrades.schools.utah.gov. Tools are available on the report card website to let users look at individual report findings based on subject matter, student proficiency and student growth as well as individual school and state demographics associated with the data.

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Utah second graders struggling post-pandemic, but most students recovering, report says