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Covid-19, the level drops at the beginning of elementary but not in 6th

Asked at the beginning of September about the Ifop-Apel-La Croix poll giving one in two parents convinced that their child had accumulated delay during the confinement, the Minister of Education put forward the holding of national assessments from the first weeks of classroom. He invited them to wait for their results to judge a possible “Covid effect” on the level of the students.

The results are there and the Covid effect appears less devastating than one might have feared, in any case more contrasted. The performance of first-grade students registered a slight decline in French and maths. Knowledge of the name of letters and the sound they produce goes, for example, from 80.1% to 77.8%. Sound discrimination also fell by two points, to 79.3%.

In CE1, the Covid erased the progress made in 2019

But it is especially in CE1, the other primary class evaluated, that the decline is marked, mainly in French, where students decline in seven of the eight areas (- 4.8 points for text reading, – 4.3 for reading words, – 4.5 for writing words, etc.).

At the start of CE1, the drop is of the same order, or even greater, than the increase observed at the start of the 2019 school year. As if the epidemic had swept away the progress made by the school.

As pointed out by the Director General of School Education Édouard Geffray, the drop in level is no doubt due to the fact that the second half of the CP constitutes “A delicate period from the point of view of learning”, which requires the presence and method of teachers, limited this year by confinement and then a dotted line.

If public and private alike are concerned by the decline in French skills at the start of CE1, we can see that the gap between priority education and non-priority education has widened markedly, where last year, the evolution had been diametrically reversed.

Good surprise in 6e

This gloomy picture is offset by the results of the assessments at entry into 6e, which relate to all elementary learning. “We observe stable results in maths and a slight increase in French”, rejoices Fabienne Rosenwald, Director of the Evaluation, Foresight and Performance Department at the Ministry of Education. The percentage of students with satisfactory proficiency in French thus drops from 83% to 88%.

“The pejorative effects of confinement have been amortized, or even compensated for, thanks to the educational continuity”, wants to believe Édouard Geffray. The number 2 of the ministry also believes that the emphasis since 2017 on “fundamentals” has borne fruit, as well as the refresher courses which have benefited, during the holidays, many future college students.

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A relief which must however be matched with caveats. On the one hand, even down by three points, the proportion of students who do not have mastered math skills on entering college remains very high, at 28%. On the other hand, a test on reading fluency – new to these 2020 assessments – highlights the difficulties encountered by many children.

Asked to read a simple text, 15% of 6-grade studentse had a rate of less than 90 words per minute, the threshold required at the end of CE2. More than 30% were in this situation in the reinforced priority education networks (Rep +). There were also, all types of establishments combined, 31% of children with a fragile mastery of reading (between 90 and 120 words per minute).

Relearn the student’s job

“We did not wait for the evaluations to observe the backlog accumulated by many children in most of our classes”, reacts Ghislaine David, general secretary of SNUipp, the main primary union. And refloating is made more complex by the health situation and its psychological impact. “The entire first period, until the All Saints’ Day holidays, had to be used to re-teach children their job as a pupil, a whole series of social skills that are sometimes forgotten. “


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