Arizona Gov. Ducey orders study to assess learning loss during pandemic

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In tandem with signing a bill that suspends the state’s letter-grading system for the current school year, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey ordered a study on how far behind the state’s students fell because of virtual learning.

Ducey said the order is aimed at getting students and families the support they need.

“This will ensure we continue to have accountability in our education system, so parents can make the best educational choice for their kids,” Ducey said Monday in a news release.

Ducey announced the signing of House Bill 2402, which gives flexibility around the state’s letter-grading system. State Rep. Michelle Udall, R-Mesa, sponsored the bill.

“After all, these are our future leaders and it is incumbent upon us that we ensure they are prepared for success,” Ducey said. “Any future attempts to suspend this grading system will necessitate a much greater level of justification.”

The executive order requires the Arizona State Board of Education to instate the AZMerit and AZM2 assessments to better assess learning loss. The AZM2 test was supposed to be discontinued in 2021. It was criticized for its use in results-based funding that rewarded some schools and punished others based on average scores.

The Arizona Department of Education must submit a report on the assessment data in November.

A McKinsey & Company study estimated the average student fell three months behind in math skills and six weeks off track in reading. A McKinsey study from June found virtual learning could cost students a year’s earnings as an adult.

“There should be statues and monuments erected,” Advance Illinois president Robin Steans said of the educational effort in October but “this is a significant disruption. … The amount of learning time that is lost, compounded by summer learning loss and the implications down the line on educational attainment, lifetime earnings, is powerful.”

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