CUSD students' test results approach pre-pandemic levels

Nov. 4—Chandler Unified School District students' performance on standard tests show their achievement on average is close to pre-pandemic levels.

The district's Governing Board took an in-depth look at its statewide assessment results at the Oct. 19 meeting.

Those results took a steep decline during the pandemic, as students stayed home and switched to online learning. But it appears that decline is over.

About 58% of CUSD students were proficient in English language arts last year. That was up 2% from 2021 and only down 1% from the pre-pandemic year of 2019.

In math, CUSD students were 53% proficient last year, an increase of 4% over 2021. There was no testing in 2020. CUSD students tested at 58% proficient in 2019 before COVID-19.

Those numbers were significantly higher than the state averages of 40% for English language arts and 33% for math.

"No surprise: we always are outperforming the state, right?" said Dr. Jessica Fletcher, the district's executive director of accountability, assessment and research. "But what is really important that I want us to focus on is given we're returning from a pandemic, our (English Language Arts) results are only 1% away from 2019, which are pre-pandemic.

"We did make some great strides in math, we moved from 49% to 53%. But we still have a 5% return that we need to get back to those pre-COVID proficiency rates."

Chandler Unified continues to rank among the best in Arizona among public schools. Higley and Scottsdale had the highest proficiency in the state in math, both at 57%. Neither is as large at Chandler.

Queen Creek was the only other district higher than Chandler with 54% in math proficiency. That district has fewer than 11,000 students. Scottsdale has about 22,000 and Higley has about 13,000.

Chandler Unified has more than double each of them with about 45,000 students. Only Mesa Unified, with about 64,000 students, is larger. Mesa scored 33% in math proficiency and 39% in English language arts.

In English language arts, only Scottsdale and Higley tested better than Chandler at 62% and 60% respectively. Deer Valley Unified had the same 58% as Chandler did.

"Despite those improvements, though, you'll notice we are still not to pre-pandemic proficiency rates," Fletcher said. "The good news is we are still continuing to improve in math. We know that it's not a one-year tackle and we're done and we move on. So we are continuing in a math focus."

The results were broken down by grades and there was a sharp drop among middle school students. Fletcher said that is seen statewide and said it's probably caused by many factors, including social impact.

The Grade 6 proficiency was 60% in English language arts and 55% in math. Grade 7 fell to 59% and 42%, respectively. Grade 8 scored even worse at 50% and 43%, respectively.

Girls do better on the English Language Arts test, and boys do better on the math test. Asian students scored highest among race/ethnicity in both tests.

Fletcher said the district improved overall in both English language arts and math. Several of the racial subgroups have returned to pre-pandemic levels. And CUSD continues to outperform the state by grade and subgroup level on both tests.

"Not surprisingly, we need to continue to work to close gaps between all of our subgroups, programs," Fletcher said. "So race, ethnicity, and then male, female. And because our results have not yet returned us to pre-pandemic for math, overall, the district will continue with a focus on math."