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National report card indicates COVID-19 had lasting impact on Cleveland students

Cleveland saw the largest single drop among major school districts, falling 16 points in fourth-grade reading along with a 15-point decline in fourth-grade math.

CLEVELAND — The NAEP, known as the nation's report card, tests fourth and eight graders across the nation each year. This year was the first time the test has been given since 2019, the year before the COVID-19 pandemic.

While 26 of the nation's major school districts saw NAEP test scores fall by more than ten points in 2022, Cleveland saw the largest single drop, falling 16 points in fourth-grade reading along with a 15-point decline in fourth-grade math.

"We aren't just sitting on our hands and saying 'oh well, we'll get there eventually,'" says Shari Obrenski, president of the Cleveland Teachers Union.

When the state's report card was released last month, high marks were given to the Cleveland Metropolitan School District. CMSD's gap-closing and progress scored four stars each, making it the top urban school district in Ohio.

But on the national scale, in both math and reading, students scored lower than those tested in 2019. Math scores have plummeted to the point where we are now seeing the largest margins in the history of the NAEP test. 

In response to the NAEP test result, CMSD provided the following statement to 3News:

"Our scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress confirm what we already knew: The global pandemic had a severe impact on a city with one of the nation’s highest rates of poverty.

CMSD students took the exam as the devastating Omicron strain of COVID-19 raged, and Cleveland was the hardest hit area in the nation. The results were then compared with exams taken in 2019, before the pandemic. 

Prior to the pandemic, our NAEP and state tests showed growth that outpaced districts throughout Ohio and across the country.

Our new State Report Card, which compares achievement year to year, shows the District has begun to recover. Cleveland ranked first among Ohio’s urban school systems for academic growth and was 12th overall.

Our recovery plan includes a large summer learning program, adding instructional time to the day during the school year and providing extra homework and tutoring help. We are preparing to roll out an online tutoring program with live teachers.

“We know we can and will catch up,” CMSD CEO Eric Gordon closed in the statement. “Our surveys show that the community expected a drop in test scores but has confidence that we will recover.”

The Cleveland Teachers Association stresses that the district has a plan to catch students up. "We have instituted the summer learning experience, opening up summer learning opportunities to students in grades kindergarten through 12, which is not something we had been doing prior to the pandemic," Obrenski adds.

3News also asked Obrenski if this year's lower NAEP scores affects how the union feels about getting new CMSD leadership next year after Gordon steps down. She says as long as the new superintendent is committed to following the path that has been laid, next year's scores should reflect the new plan in place.

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