The results are in. Hawaii’s public school students suffered dramatic drops in proficiency in core subjects in the nearly two years since the Covid-19 pandemic began, reflecting severe setbacks in academic progress ahead of the resumption of full in-person learning in August.

Only 50% of students who took the Smarter Balanced Assessments in the spring were proficient in language arts, which comprises reading comprehension and literacy, in 2021 compared with 54% in 2019. Only 32% of students were proficient in math in 2021 compared with 43% of students in 2019, while only 35% of students were proficient in science compared with 44% two years ago.

The decreases were even more stark among some Indigenous Pacific communities. Math proficiency among Micronesians, which include Marshallese, Pohnpeian and Chuukese students, dropped by more than half, from 15% in 2019 to 7% in the spring. Native Hawaiian students saw their math proficiency dip to 16% from 26% in 2019.

But the SBA results — also known as “Strive HI” data — and a separate fall assessment known as universal screeners were what most concerns education advocates.

“Along with the universal screener academic data … today’s Strive HI results are extremely alarming,” HawaiiKidsCAN Executive Director David Miyashiro said in written testimony to the BOE. “Learning loss is real and profound, and it should be clear that significant action is needed to get students back on track.”

As pronounced as the academic setbacks were over the last year and a half, Miyashiro emphasized that progress in Hawaii has actually been “fairly stagnant since 2015.”

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