New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli has released a review of federal data about how the pandemic negatively affected student performance in New York. Fourth grade math and reading scores have doubled the national average in losses.
In response to the report, DiNapoli he urged New York school districts to assess their plans for spending federal pandemic funds and to target funds towards children most in need.
New York was allocated over $15 billion in emergency education aid during the pandemic from the federal government, with $14 billion from three rounds of the Elementary and Secondary School Relief Fund (ESSER) assistance. This aid was aimed at elementary and secondary schools and must be obligated by September 2024. Based on data from DiNapoli’s COVID Relief Program Tracker, through January 31, 2023, New York’s school districts have spent roughly 40% of ESSER funds.
“The classroom disruptions caused by the pandemic have hurt New York’s students. Academic losses were greater for younger students, with fourth grade scores dropping more than the national average,” DiNapoli said. “School districts must act quickly to take full advantage of available resources to help students that are most in need get caught up, before time runs out.”
Recent data from The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) shows student performance dropped significantly in 2022 from 2019. New York’s average score remained steady for eighth grade reading but declined in eighth grade math (down 6 points). Over this time, New York’s losses in fourth grade math and reading scores were double the national average and exceeded 45 other states in math and 38 other states in reading. The average drop for fourth grade math scores (10 points) was so severe that McKinsey & Company estimated this learning loss to be the equivalent of nearly an entire school year.
Over the same time frame, fourth grade math proficiency rates declined across all gender, racial and ethnic groups, and the decline was steepest for Asian and Pacific Islander students, at 14 percentage points. Students from low-income households also experienced steep declines in fourth grade math proficiency rates from 24% to 18%.
The Executive Budget proposes $42.1 billion in combined state and federal education aid for the upcoming state fiscal year (SFY) 2023-24; however, that total is projected to decline, as the balance of federal pandemic relief funds must be obligated by September 2024. This could be problematic if a significant portion of the relief funds is left unspent or is dedicated to programs with recurring expenses or if significant progress in academic recovery has not occurred.
DiNapoli urged the State Education Department to provide school districts with guidance on best practices for spending of funds and encouraged school districts to ensure funds are being used for evidence-based practices for students most in need.