(KRON) — Standardized test scores taken since the COVID-19 pandemic shut down schools are showing a significant decline.

The state’s standardized test, Smart Balanced, showed that fewer than half of students met the English language arts standard, dropping four percentage points since 2018-2019. One-third of students performed to standard in math, declining six and a half points.

“It could have been worse. But we shouldn’t celebrate because we still have work to do,” said Dr. Christopher Nellum, father and executive director of The Education Trust.

Nellum said he is disappointed but not shocked because of how the COVID-19 pandemic impacted learning. He is alarmed to see no improvement in racial gaps.

“One of the findings is the gaps, the gaps that we see between students of color and other students in the state in some cases is widening. While we weren’t surprised, we certainly were more alarmed,” said Nellum.

On the national test, California students did better – falling in math but maintaining a similar score to 2019 in reading. “The state and the state superintendent have put a lot of energy into literacy and reading and that could be one explanation, but we just have more to learn there,” said Nellum.

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Nellum said there needs to be urgent focus on finding a solution to combat the declines. That includes investing in teachers and schools in an equitable way, so dollars reach the places that need it most.

He also has a suggestion for parents. “Look at the data for your district, for your school. I would say also don’t panic, I know that’s hard as a parent, but go to the school. Ask hard questions.”