A year ago, we made a bold choice: to put the needs of children and families first by making in-person instruction an option for every Partnership family beginning on the first day of the 2020-2021 school year. We knew that the communities we serve—which are among the hardest hit by both the economic and the health and safety impact of COVID-19—needed a place where children could learn safely; where they could flourish, even in the toughest of times.
The results are beginning to come in, and they show that this bold action has not only helped support parents who needed the safety and structure that only in-person education can provide for their children, but also has made a real difference in the academic growth of the students we serve.
Results from the nationwide administration of the NWEA MAP test revealed that average student performance in reading dropped by an average of 3-6 percentage points in 2021 and by 8-12 percent in math. Worse, these average declines mask the fact that one impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting schools shutdown has dramatically increased achievement gaps between White and Asian students and their Black and Latino peers.
Fortunately, our decision to provide full-time in-person instruction has had a significant positive impact on the students we serve. Our Spring 2021 results reveal that Partnership students beat not just nationwide 2021 averages in reading, but met or exceeded even pre-pandemic national averages in reading in every grade level.
In math, Partnership students not only significantly outperformed their peers, but our middle school students beat nationwide 2021 and pre-pandemic 2019 achievement levels.
The persistence, courage and trust that brought our teachers and leaders back in person from day 1 now propels us into next year with zeal to overcome inequities that long pre-date the pandemic. And because we committed to continuing objective, external assessments, we have a clear picture of the work before us.
We are determined to sustain the mix of intentional curriculum choices, grade-level work, key topic prioritization, and just-in-time remediation that we believe will keep all students on the path to unlocking game-changing opportunities in high school and beyond.
Importantly, while we did have incidents of COVID in all schools at some point in the last year, we did not experience a any confirmed incidents of in-school spread, thanks to a combination of the vigilance of our faculty and staff, the transparency and proactive communication of our families, and the effective planning our operations teams did so that everyone knew just what to do when a COVID case struck. Thus the health and academic progress of our communities could proceed in tandem, not one at the expense of the other.
The Partnership’s experience of safe, predominantly in-person, consequential academic growth last year—in schools that proudly serve predominantly Black and Latino students, and where large numbers of families meet the FRPL income criteria—demonstrates that exacerbating educational inequities is not inevitable, even in a pandemic. It is not easy—as our determined teachers and leaders will share—and the work is far from over. But we teach our students to believe that we can do hard things, and this year, our students and their teachers more than proved that to be true.