Test scores fall in Georgia schools after pandemic year

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A photograph of the Georgia State Capitol astatine nighttime connected Tuesday, June 23, 2020. (Photo by: Itoro N. Umontuen/The Atlanta Voice)

Test scores fell for Georgia students past twelvemonth successful the aftermath of the pandemic, amid questions astir what the scores mean with fewer students taking the standardized tests successful immoderate districts.

State officials said they judge the scores would person been worse if the missing students had besides taken the tests but besides de-emphasized the value they’re putting connected the scores considering people disruptions stemming from COVID-19.

The Georgia Department of Education released the yearly Milestones trial results Monday. Students successful grades 3-8 arsenic good arsenic precocious schoolers instrumentality the tests. Federal instrumentality requires astir of the tests, and the U.S. Department of Education insisted that students instrumentality them, contempt 2 requests by Georgia State Superintendent Richard Woods to cancel tests for the 2nd twelvemonth successful a row.

“These are accepted tests that are designed to measurement pupil show successful a accepted schoolroom environment,” Department of Education Chief of Staff Matt Jones said. “And we each cognize that this past twelvemonth was thing but traditional. Students and teachers had to woody with an ever-changing environment.”

Normally, trial results would beryllium utilized to make study cards for schools and districts with missive grades. That won’t hap this twelvemonth due to the fact that Georgia and different states got waivers from the national accountability requirement.

Proficiency levels mostly fell much successful mathematics than successful speechmaking and much successful younger grades.

“Given the magnitude of learning disruptions experienced this past schoolhouse year, these decreases successful show truly are not peculiarly large,” Deputy Superintendent Allison Timberlake told reporters successful a briefing Friday.

Students were not required to instrumentality the tests, and information varied by people and schoolhouse district. Many smaller districts reported 100% participation, arsenic if past outpouring were normal, portion successful the fistful of schoolhouse districts that stayed virtual, fewer students took the test.

Participation besides varied by property level, with astir 80% of 3rd graders taking the tests, but that fell to astir fractional for precocious schoolhouse end-of-course exams. The authorities Board of Education, aft beardown unit from Woods, voted to marque those tests number for thing successful a student’s people successful the 4 required courses. Historically, they counted for 20% of a people grade.

Dana Rickman, president of the Georgia Partnership for Excellence successful Education said scores “did not spell down arsenic overmuch arsenic we had feared,” but said the declines inactive had consequences.

“We person been making immoderate truly bully advancement implicit the past decennary oregon so,” Rickman said. “And it feels similar that advancement has benignant of been wiped out. And we’re benignant of starting over.”

For example, the stock of 3rd graders speechmaking connected people level fell from 72.9% successful 2019 to 61.6% past spring. The stock of eighth graders proficient successful mathematics fell from 34.9% to 31.8%.

Timberlake said that contempt the ample shares of students who didn’t instrumentality tests, the section judges that “the students who did trial much oregon little are typical of the afloat population.” However, districts that had much than 95% of students instrumentality the trial saw bigger people drops successful immoderate subjects than districts with smaller shares of trial takers.

“So if we did person everyone test, my proposal would not beryllium that the scores would beryllium higher,” Timberlake said. “I deliberation they would beryllium a small spot lower.”

Timberlake said that too the effects of disruptions themselves, the out-of-whack schoolhouse twelvemonth whitethorn person meant immoderate districts were incapable to screen each the standards connected the test.

Some acquisition advocates are acrophobic that truthful galore students deficiency scores.

“In a way, you’re flying blind,” said Michael O’Sullivan, enforcement manager of the Georgia Campaign for Achievement Now. “You presume determination are gaps, but you don’t cognize wherever they are.”

State officials said districts volition beryllium capable to trust connected their interior tests to diagnose learning gaps, though.

It’s not wide that Georgia volition beryllium capable to tally its accountability strategy for schools oregon valuation strategy for teachers and principals adjacent year. That’s due to the fact that those systems are expected to springiness recognition for maturation successful trial scores. With debased information rates successful 2021 successful immoderate districts and the past information earlier that from 2019, it could beryllium hard to compute reliable measures of pupil growth.

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