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Students who took in-person classes outperformed those who relied on distance learning, the state Department of Education said Tuesday.

On the eve of the release of key test results, state officials said Tuesday students who attended in-person classes during the coronavirus pandemic outperformed those who relied on distance learning.

The disparities surfaced on LEAP 2025, which measures what students in third through 12th grade know about math, English, science and social studies.

Students took the tests in April and May.

The state Department of Education is set to unveil the results Wednesday amid predictions that scores will show a deep drop amid the pandemic.

The state's goal is for students to achieve mastery or better – the fourth highest of five achievement levels.

In third through eighth grade, the rate of students who scored mastery or higher on the English and math portions of LEAP 2025 was 15% higher for students who spent the 2020-21 school year in the classroom compared to those who relied on virtual instruction.

Also, students who used distance learning had an 11% greater rate of scoring unsatisfactory on the exams – the lowest achievement level.

"The data is clear that in-person instruction is far more beneficial than virtual learning options for the majority of students," state Superintendent of Education Cade Brumley said in a statement.

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"This information should guide decisions for educators and parents moving into the new school year," Brumley said. "It is absolutely critical that we keep our students in the classroom for this upcoming year while mitigating the spread of COVID-19."

Brumley made his comments one day after Gov. John Bel Edwards announced the resumption of his mandatory indoor face mask order, which includes school students. Edwards made the decision in a bid to curb skyrocketing cases of the coronavirus in Louisiana, which also has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the nation.

Brumley has long touted the need for students to be in the classroom, and often notes that the state had one of the highest rates of in-person instruction nationally during the 2020-21 school year. About 75% of students were back in the classroom by the end of the most recent academic year.

Some students and school districts relied on virtual instruction, especially in the early months of the 2020-21 school year, as a way to avoid the coronavirus.

Some teachers were also reluctant to lead classrooms amid rising case counts.

The sharp divisions between in-person and virtual learning are expected to be highlighted when the LEAP results are announced Wednesday. Scores are expected to drop sharply amid the interruptions that have plagued classrooms, and other states have seen declines in their own standardized test results.

Stephen Pruitt, president of the Southern Regional Education Board, said Tuesday the split between how in-person students fared compared to distance learners dovetails with what he has heard anecdotally.

"Everything I have seen is students in school performed better, significantly," Pruitt said.


Email Will Sentell at wsentell@theadvocate.com.