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Student Test Score Assessments, Post COVID-19, Reveal Major Shortcoming for Georgia

Student Test Score Assessments, Post COVID-19, Reveal Major Shortcoming for Georgia 

A new assessment of student test scores, which experts nickname “the Nation’s Report Card,” revealed Monday that COVID-19 exacted a terrible toll upon students nationwide and their capacity to learn.

And when it came to the bad news, Georgia’s public school students were not spared.

On Monday, staff at the Washington, D.C.-based National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) published the first major assessment of student test scores since 2019, the year before the pandemic, and remote learning, began.

Between 2019 and 2022, test scores declined nationwide for fourth and eighth graders in math and reading. But the national average score declines in math for fourth-and eighth graders were the largest ever recorded for that subject. The average mathematics score for fourth graders fell five points since 2019 (from 241 to 236), while the score for eighth graders dropped eight points (from 282 to 274), NAEP officials said in a statement.

Georgia had some good news. The assessments for the Peach State showed no significant changes in test scores for fourth-grade math and reading and eighth-grade reading between 2019 to 2022.

The state’s eighth-grade math scores, however, fell eight points (from 279 to 271).

Foundation senior fellow Ben Scafidi, who directs the Education Economics Center at Kennesaw State University and who also advised former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue on education policy, said the NAEP test results matter a great deal. Those test scores, he said, predict whether a state’s economy will shrink or grow.

“We got an extra $2.756 billion in COVID dollars [from the federal government] that were earmarked for public school districts here in Georgia. State officials have spent less than 42 percent of those funds as of Aug. 31, and the rest of it must be spent by Sept. 2024,” Scafidi said. 

“I have looked at the data for a few of the larger school districts. They are not earmarking very much for remediating students. They are doing things like giving bonuses to all teachers and covering some one-time expenses. They need to do more of earmarking those funds to remediated students to get them back up on grade level.” 

The nationwide assessments were administered between January and March of this year. Results are for public schools only.

A Sense of Urgency

Considering this report, Scafidi said Georgia legislators must ask State School Superintendent Richard Woods to report on what each of the Peach State’s public school districts are doing to raise students’ test scores.

“I just don’t sense an urgency in the state’s Department of Education, and I don’t sense an urgency from school district leaders on this issue,” Scafidi said. 

“Maybe releasing these scores will create that urgency, at least that is my hope.”

In response, Georgia Department of Education spokeswoman Meghan Frick, via email, said “all Georgia school districts [will] submit plans on how they’ll be utilizing federal relief funds to tackle learning loss to the state.”