Georgia Milestones: How metro school districts scored during COVID-19

Credit: Natrice Miller / Natrice.Miller@ajc.com

Credit: Natrice Miller / Natrice.Miller@ajc.com

The results on standardized tests for Georgia’s 2021-22 school year show a decline in performance during the pandemic.

But some of the Milestones test results defy expectations, particularly the scores for eighth grade math. Based on proficiency rates — the percentage of test takers who scored well enough to indicate they are fully ready for the next grade — those students are doing fine, even better than peers did back in 2018-19, the last full school year before COVID-19.

ExploreSearchable test results: See how your child's school performed in 2022 compared to 2019

There are some caveats to consider. First, the Georgia Department of Education said the data was reliable enough to compare scores over time at the state level, but cautioned against doing so at the school and school district level.

The reason: When it released the scores in July, the agency had not yet calculated what’s called the participation rate. That is the percentage of students who took their tests. It fell off dramatically in 2020-21, when many students were still at home, attending online, unwilling to enter their school for a test. Officials think the participation rate recovered by last spring, but say it will take time to confirm that.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution compared this year’s scores with those from 2019 in three areas that experts say are crucial: eighth grade math, and third grade reading and writing.

The recent results for eighth grade math include a higher-performing population than in 2019. Back then, accelerated middle school students who were taking high school math were not asked to take their eighth grade Milestones math test. But last school year, they took the eighth grade exam, and their pass rates were included in the overall performance for eighth grade.

Also, math proficiency was already low, with just 35% of Georgia eighth graders scoring proficient or better in 2019.

English Language Arts and reading performance in third grade was generally higher in 2019. Prior research by Georgia State University, using scores from other tests, found an intuitive result: Younger students learned less than older students during the depths of the pandemic, when many were stuck at home in front of screens.

The Georgia Department of Education says the real value of the 2021-22 scores is not as a measure of performance during COVID-19. Rather, the numbers will serve as a baseline for future comparison. Next year and in the years after, the state will write its federally required school report cards using comparisons to these latest scores. The numbers before and during the pandemic will no longer matter for school accountability.

Look up individual school results here: Georgia Milestones test scores: Results for each school in metro Atlanta 2022 (ajc.com)