SAT scores take a turn for better and worse following remote learning

By Renee Aldana

The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the education of students, posing great challenges on schools, teachers and students. In response to the rising number of cases in Illinois, schools implemented remote learning statewide. 

In 2021 when students initially returned for their first full in-person year, many educators were worried about the potential learning loss students faced as a result from the disconnect that came with virtual learning. 

“We knew we were coming in, and we were gonna have to slow way down,” Rebecca Atwood, an AP Calculus teacher at Lane, said. “We knew we were coming in, and there was probably going to be a lot of learning loss.”

This remains a concern for many as standardized state test scores such as the SAT and the IAR overall composite scores have dropped in 2022, in comparison to 2019, according to the Illinois State Report Card. 

This data showed the percentage of 11th graders scoring at different performance levels in both ELA and Mathematics sections of the SAT specifically at Lane Tech. There was a 3.2% drop in those “exceeding performance level” and a 6.1% increase in those “approaching” in the math section. For ELA,  there was a 6.6% increase in those “exceeding” and a 0.4% increase of those “approaching” in the ELA section.

The performance level for Lane students in the ELA section did actually increase in 2022 in comparison to 2019 instead of dropping. However, this was not the case in the mathematics section whose percentages dropped. This suggests a higher learning loss in math for many Lane Tech students. 

“In my English classes there wasn’t really that much of a gap, but I did a lot of reading over quarantine, which I think helped, but math was definitely harder,” senior Abigail Noback said.

As a result of this learning loss teachers have had to, in some ways, adapt and account for the level of every student. 

“I know our math teachers kind of had to reteach some stuff just because like half the class didn’t know it because we never learned it or it was something that we learned but didn’t really quite grasp,” Noback said. 

However, Atwood said she found it difficult to find the time to teach students the fundamental skills that should’ve been learned in the previous year while still continuing to prepare students for post secondary school. 

“Colleges are expecting us to still prepare students, but we can’t when there was this, there’s this huge gap.” Atwood said.

Within the Lane Tech math department there are some teachers who have been trying to find class time to review. 

I’ve tried to adjust a little bit. Other teams, I know that they have found days where they can go back and review,” Atwood said. 

Many classes will, however, take time to review SAT topics to help prepare students for the SAT. This becomes beneficial to students who cannot attend additional prep courses outside of school. 

“We will take weeks before the SAT and we will prep on big sections of the math skills that need to be really solid for a student on the SAT,” Atwood said.

 “We do little days, you know, three to five day stretches of SAT review in class. So we do try to prepare,”Atwood said. 

In addition to Lane’s overall preparation for the SAT, Lane also offers a three-week prep course outside of school that runs Monday through Thursday unless otherwise noted. It offers two three-week sessions during the winter in the morning and after school as well as two additional crash courses. This program is primarily intended for juniors but applications are open to sophomores. 

“SAT Prep is an excellent way for students to improve upon their SAT score,” Aaron Hoof, a Lane counselor, said. “In the program, students will learn test taking tips/strategies as well as knowledge in the three different exam content areas.”

Noback took one of these sessions last year to prepare for the SAT. Noback said she did feel better prepared partly due to this course. More specifically within the grammar section. 

 “I kind of flew through that and that was definitely because of that prep course.” Noback said.

This intensive program does, however, have its own weaknesses along with its strengths. According to Hoof, incentivizing attendance can be a struggle. This year those with perfect attendance will be entered into a raffle to win a prize. In addition, each session has only three weeks to review the various topics covered on the SAT. 

“They were trying to pack a lot of information in there, but I feel like there definitely had to be review outside of that class. I couldn’t just rely on that class because there wasn’t a lot of time to do everything.” Noback said. 

Lane Tech’s overall performance level did not significantly drop and does remain higher than that of students statewide. Regardless, many teachers have taken notice of the learning gap and some have tried to make time to accommodate for the different levels of all students.

“They’ve tried to squeeze out days, but they’re also trying to prepare all the students. It’s a vicious circle,” Atwood said.