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Update on NAZ Scholar Academic Progress

September marks back to school; thankfully, students have returned full-time to their classrooms this year. At NAZ, we are also thinking about the academic achievement of our scholars and the toll the last two years have taken on them. The full impact of COVID-19 and distance learning on student academics is just starting to become clear, and as anticipated, the news is devastating. According to a recent New York Times article, the pandemic erased two decades of improvements in the performance of elementary-age students in reading and math. 

Here in Minnesota, the Department of Education recently released its 2022 data on students’ academic progress across the state. Two years of COVID-related disruptions contributed to an overall proficiency decline of 10 percentage points in math and 8 percentage points in reading since 2019. Just 45% of Minnesota students were proficient in math and 51% were on track in reading in spring of 2022. As for our state’s achievement gaps, just 20% of Black students were proficient in math, compared to 54% of white students. Participation in standardized testing still lags pre-pandemic levels, making year-over-year comparisons challenging. Overall, about 7% of students in Minnesota did not take the tests last year.

Experts agree that with the lack of consistent testing, these data must be considered in context and seen as one piece of a complicated picture.

This is absolutely true for our NAZ scholars. In addition to the instability caused by distance learning, for many families, their employment and housing (including lack of affordable housing) were also impacted by the pandemic. Layered on that were school changes due to the Minneapolis Public Schools’ Comprehensive District Design and the sustained, elevated levels of community violence across the Northside.

NAZ is working with our partners and Wilder Research to understand the academic performance of NAZ scholars for the last school year. NAZ also saw a drastic dip in available data for our scholars, making it difficult to draw conclusions based on our data. What we do know is that reading and math scores both declined by 15% for the NAZ scholars for whom we have test results.

But there are some bright spots. NAZ adapted much of its programming and leaned on our community partners to meet families’ changing needs, and some of our recent programmatic results show that. Highlights for our fiscal year 2022 include: 

  • Overall nearly 1,000 families and more than 1,700 scholars participated in the NAZ collaborative
  • The development of NAZ’s youngest scholars, those enrolled in partner high-quality preschool programs, remained relatively steady, with 87% reaching key development milestones in social-emotional, physical, cognitive, literacy, language, and mathematics 
  • More parents than ever before enrolled in NAZ Family Academy parenting classes, with 179 graduations celebrated 
  • 62 NAZ parents self-identified as parent leaders, receiving training and opportunities to elevate their voice and action on issues that impact their community and their scholars’ education
  • More than 600 NAZ scholars engaged in quality extended-learning (after-school, in-school, and summer) programming to support their academic success 
  • Families utilized our partners’ family support services, with 192 NAZ families seeking support to improve their housing situations

Additional information will be shared soon in our annual NAZ Results Report. Ultimately it is the academic achievement of NAZ scholars that is our goal. We believe in all of our scholars and their capabilities to learn and be successful. NAZ, together with our partners, commit to doing whatever it takes to support and advocate for what our scholars need and deserve to thrive academically and in life – because this is what we owe them, and so much more.