NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) – The Connecticut State Department of Education has released the results of the 2021-22 state assessments data.

The data shows how students fell behind in performance last year, but state educators are working on plans to close the pandemic learning gap.

Student development took a hit during the pandemic. Districts are hoping they can ramp up the recovery this year with the state’s new guidance geared to keeping kids in school.

“We were telling students to stay home. Imagine what it will be like when we don’t have to do that. Keep these systems in place, the hope it gives to our kids,” said Nathan Quesnel, East Hartford Superintendent.

East Hartford’s superintendent, like many other school leaders, saw absenteeism rates drastically increase. It’s a factor for test scores not meeting state expectations.

“Students experiencing homelessness, we talked about absenteeism. We are really addressing attendance and engagement and using the data to support that,” said Commissioner Charlene Russell-Tucker, Department of Education.

The data comes from the Department of Education’s 2021-22 assessment, which shows a decline of between six and eight points in English and Language Arts and Math, and around four points in Science. The data also indicates that students in grades 4 and 5 are as much as three months behind.

Students in 8th grade may be up to a year behind in math.

“The pandemic affected all students. In 21-22, the achievement really lags pre-pandemic years,” said Aji Gopalakrishnan, CSDE Chief Performance Officer.

Some districts are performing better than the rest, including Vernon which added English and Math interventionists to better address students’ needs.

“They showed the results of a return on investment. For our students, it was very, very powerful to have that,” said Joseph Macary, Vernon Superintendent.

Test scores by students with disabilities and those from low-income families have also declined in urban districts.

“That’s why the data is so helpful. All data points we can desegregate between different student groups. That allows us to target interventions based on what we need. Districts are pouring over the data to see where the gaps are,” Russell-Tucker said.

Teacher shortages remain a widespread issue for districts, reporting over 400 teaching vacancies as well as 570 for paraprofessionals.

To further advance learning acceleration and equity in academic recovery, the Department of Education will deploy more than $7 million to districts and schools to identify youth experiencing homelessness and boost their academic support.

More than $8.5 million will also be distributed to 45 after-school programs to increase capacity, with an understanding that students’ social development also needs to be accelerated.