Students are starting to regain the ground they lost during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the New Hampshire Department of Education. But the destructive impacts of classroom lockdowns backed by teacher’s unions continue to be felt.

“Assessment scores are inching upward and returning to near pre-pandemic levels. But it is clear there is still work to be done to recover from the academic declines that resulted from COVID-19,” said Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut. “New Hampshire has not fully regained ground, but these early signs of improvement are promising.”

In 2021, New Hampshire Statewide Assessment System performance levels dropped at every grade level from third through eighth grade, including both English and math scores. The state completed a comprehensive analysis of those results to help understand how to support students recovering from the pandemic. In 2022, that performance data started to turn around. 

It is hardly a New Hampshire problem. Multiple studies have found online learning was a disaster for K-12 students in response to the COVID pandemic. Learning loss was worst among low-income and minority students, one reason so many parents and supporters of education reform fought against teachers’ union demands to keep classrooms closed. The results were mixed.

The Center for Education Policy Research at Harvard University reports some one in five U.S. students were enrolled in districts that continued online learning for most of the 2020-21 school year. The learning loss is estimated to be as much as 22 weeks of learning.

In New Hampshire, this year’s early data sets show students in grades three through seven improved their math assessment scores in 2022, while eighth-grade math scores remained at classroom-lockdown levels.

For example, proficiency scores showed small gains with 51 percent of third-graders proficient in math in 2022 compared to 45 percent proficient in 2021. The trend was similar for fourth graders, which showed 48 percent were proficient in math in 2022 compared to 41 percent in 2021. 

COVID gaps remain for many students, however, including at the high school level. The high school junior class 2022 SAT high school assessment data reveals slight declines in reading proficiency in 2022, and more moderate declines in math proficiency–a trend found among other states as well, according to the DOE.

New Hampshire students still performed better on the SAT than students nationally, according to the DOE.

In 2022, New Hampshire’s average reading score on the SAT was 511 compared to 517 in 2021 and 515 in 2019. The average math score for 2022 was 492 compared to 509 in 2021 and 508 in 2019. 

“We know that these students, who will be starting their senior year in a few weeks, have had a high school career filled with disruptions, remote classes, and missed learning. We also know that SAT participation dropped in New Hampshire to about 82 percent in 2022” said Edelblut. “While many states have seen an overall decline in SAT scores, New Hampshire scores continue to remain comparatively high.”

Individual school and district data for both the NHSAS and SAT results will be released in the fall through the iPlatform system.