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Press Release

BISMARCK, N.D., Oct. 7, 2021 – State School Superintendent Kirsten Baesler said Thursday that new test information shows a decline in student math and English proficiency during the 2020-21 school year.  The results offer evidence about how the COVID-19 pandemic affected student learning in North Dakota.

The North Dakota State Assessment in English/Language Arts and mathematics is given annually, in the spring of each year, to students in grades three through eight, and to students in the 10th grade. The 2021 exams were administered from March 15 to May 7.

During the 2021 spring tests, the percentage of all students who scored as “proficient” or “advanced” in English/Language Arts was 42 percent, a 5 percent decline in English language proficiency from the 47 percent recorded during pre-pandemic testing in the spring of 2019.

In mathematics, the percentage of students who registered “proficient” or “advanced” scores in the spring of 2021 was 38 percent, which was 7 percent less than the 45 percent proficiency recorded in the spring of 2019. The North Dakota State Assessment was not given in the spring of 2020 because of school disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This decline is significant, and it presents a challenge to all of us as educators in North Dakota,” Baesler said. “Fortunately, our schools have been provided unprecedented resources to use in reversing these trends. We have experienced significant loss, and we now are presented with an opportunity to make a significant comeback.”

This new information has been integrated into North Dakota’s Insights Dashboard, which displays an assortment of information broken out by school and district, as well as at the state level. North Dakota State Assessment results in mathematics, science, and English are available, as are results for the ACT college entrance exam, which is taken in high school.

The dashboard also includes information about school enrollment, demographics, graduation rates, and absenteeism; improvements in student test results; and the results of engagement surveys, which measure levels of students’ enthusiasm about their education.

The information is gathered, reviewed, and later vetted again by the school districts themselves before it becomes part of the dashboard.

Baesler briefed the Legislature’s interim Education Funding Committee about the new test data results on Thursday. Her presentation was livestreamed on the Legislature’s website and recorded for future viewing. A copy of her PowerPoint presentation was also posted on the Legislature’s website.

In compiling North Dakota State Assessment test data for English/Language Arts and mathematics, scores are categorized as “novice,” “partially proficient,” “proficient,” and “advanced.”

Below is a summary of the overall results. For each exam, the overall percentage of students who performed less well on the tests increased from 2019 to 2021. The percentage who performed at proficiency levels went down.

Student Achievement Percentages in North Dakota State Assessment English/Language Arts and Mathematics Grades 3-8 and 10

Subject/Year Novice Partially Proficient Proficient Advanced
English Spring 2019 26 percent 26 percent 33 percent 14 percent
English Spring 2021 31 percent 26 percent 30 percent 12 percent
Increase / Decrease +5 percent Unchanged -3 percent -2 percent
Math Spring 2019 24 percent 32 percent 34 percent 11 percent
Math Spring 2021 28 percent 34 percent 29 percent 9 percent
Increase / Decrease +4 percent +2 percent -5 percent -2 percent


Note: Among third graders only, the percentage of “novice” achievers in English/Language Arts rose 11 percent from 2019 to 2021. The percentage of ELA “proficient and above” fell 9 percent.

Baesler noted that the North Dakota Legislature set aside resources to help pandemic-related learning recovery, including increased funding for summer school, virtual instruction programs, and tutoring. She said recovery efforts will continue.

“Just as the pandemic and its impact on education are unprecedented, so will have to be our recovery,” Baesler said.

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