Georgia school test scores still not at pre-pandemic levels

Testing data recently released from the Georgia Department of Education shows some recovery from the pandemic learning loss. But education experts say students still have a long way to go to get back to pre-pandemic results.

"I think one of the things that we were most pleased to see was certainly the gains among younger students," said Allison Timberlake, Deputy Superintendent for Assessment & Accountability for the Georgia Department of Education.

She says the 2023 Milestones test results show promising improvement from pandemic learning losses.

"[Especially] our grades 3, 4 or 5 students, particularly the early literacy, as well as the mathematics," Timberlake said. 

One example: Atlanta Public Schools third-grade literacy results show the amount of students reading at or above grade level rose from just 53% in 2022 to 56.5% in 2023. 

"I was encouraged to see that the districts are showing improvement from last year, but the improvements aren’t huge and that is concerning," says Professor Gary Bingham, Director of the Urban Child Studies Center at Georgia State University.

"None of the metro districts are back to the levels of performance they were experiencing in 2019," Bingham said. 

Looking at that same data set on Atlanta Public Schools third-grade reading levels, 63.7% of students were reading at or above grade level in 2019 compared to the only 56.5% in 2023.

"What we do know is that kids are not improving at the rate that we need them to improve to really get to reading on grade level and being really proficient in the literacy skills they’re going to need to be successful in college or successful in their careers," Bingham said. 

And it’s worse for high school students.

"We did see a few declines and that tended to be in science and social studies and high school," Timberlake said.

She says the state is investing in new tutoring programs to help make up the gaps for high school students.

"At the department, we are doing a few things that will support in that area. We’re launching the GA Tutor program. With that program, we’re working with 100 Georgia teachers after school hours to provide online one-on-one tutoring sessions," she said.

Timberlake also mentioned other statewide tutoring programs as well.

However, Tim Sass, an education economics professor at Georgia State University says, in his research, they’ve found that many voluntary tutoring programs outside of normal school hours aren’t as effective as they might seem.

"And the reason for that is simply that kids aren’t participating, particularly those kids that need the most help. So, for example, in one metro district, less than 20% of students invited to summer school actually showed up at least once," Sass said. 

Timberlake also made it clear that while Milestones scores can tell a lot, they aren’t the whole picture.

"It’s one snapshot of how students are doing across the state at one point in time, and that there’s a lot of other information that goes into understanding how students are doing," Timberlake said.

Click here to view all the results.