Test Scores in Science Confirm State’s COVID Learning Gap

New assessment data in science detail the “COVID gap” many of Maryland’s students are experiencing.

New statewide testing data show that only one-third of Maryland fifth and eighth graders passed the state’s first statewide science examine given since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic started. Education leaders have warned about pandemic learning loss, also known as the “COVID gap,” for over a year now, but this new data reveals it may be worse than previously imagined. The new data was presented at the August 23 meeting of the State Board of Education.

Statewide, 30 percent of fifth graders passed the Maryland Integrated Science Assessment (MISA) — a whopping 10 percentage point decline since the last statewide test in 2019. Eighth graders tested slightly better, with 35 percent passing — nearly the same passing rate as before the pandemic. For context, as The Baltimore Banner notes, “Third graders were in the first grade when the pandemic began, and educators have been concerned that the youngest children — who had the most difficulty paying attention to online classes — would suffer the most.”

The MISA is administered to all students in fifth grade, eighth grade, and high school every spring. The test was first administered in the 2016-17 school year for grades 5 and 8, replacing the former Maryland School Assessment (MSA) in science.

Assessment results by county

MISA passage rates varied by school district:

  • Baltimore City students scored the lowest rate of all 24 school districts in the state at both grade levels. About 9 percent of fifth graders passed. Eighth graders did slightly better, with about 12.3 percent passing.
  • Carroll County had the highest fifth grad passage rate with 44.8 percent of fifth graders passing the test.
  • Queen Anne’s County had the highest eighth grade passage rate with 54.1 percent of all eighth graders passing the exam.

Notably, passing rates also varied by race and demographic across the state.

The following is true for both fifth and eighth grade exams:

  • Generally, Asian and White students outperformed other races.
  • Similarly, male students slightly outperformed female students.
  • English language learners had the lowest passing rates.
  • Additionally, fewer economically disadvantaged students passed the assessment.

Hispanic students fared the worst on the 5th grad exam, however, they performed slightly better than Black students on the 8th grade assessment.

Read the full Baltimore Banner report.

Access the new MISA data.

Learn more about Maryland Integrated Science Assessment (MISA)