A study released by two organizations states about 21,000 less students in English language arts and about 29,000 fewer in math are on track for grade-level proficiency than prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, when schools shifted to online classes.

In a June 16 news release, redefinED Atlanta and Learn4Life announced the release of a new study, “Quantifying the Impact of School Closures on Metro Atlanta Student Proficiency.” The report covers eight school districts: Clayton, Cobb, DeKalb, Fulton and Gwinnett counties and the cities of Atlanta, Decatur and Marietta.

redefinED Atlanta is a nonprofit whose long-term goal is to ensure every child in Atlanta has access to a high-quality school, and Learn4Life is a metro Atlanta regional education partnership comprised of leaders from school districts, businesses and nonprofits.

In 2019-20, metro Atlanta students lost nine weeks of in-person instruction due to the coronavirus-mandated quick transition to distance learning in mid-March. Based on local and national data, if students had taken the Georgia Milestones assessments this spring, the percentage of students demonstrating proficiency would be expected to drop 3.6 points in English language arts and 4.9 points in math as compared to last year.

Two specific proficiency measures tracked by Learn4Life which are highly correlated to student long-term success, third-grade reading and eighth-grade math, show an expected decline of 3.5% and 4.8%, respectively.

Achievement projections are more concerning for Black, Latinx and economically disadvantaged students in metro Atlanta. The study projects only three out of 10 historically underserved students will be on track to grade-level proficiency, which reverses recent gains.

“As districts prepare for cuts to already limited budgets, it’s imperative that district leaders take an equity-minded approach to resource allocation,” redefinED Atlanta Executive Director Ed Chang said in the release. “This is also an opportunity to take bold action and put forth radical changes because we cannot afford to regress.”

Learn4Life executive Director Kenneth Zeff added, “Metro Atlanta school districts made steady progress in student achievement over the last few years. Unfortunately, school closures caused by the pandemic may have largely eliminated those gains for thousands of underserved students. Now is the time to learn from our partners across the region and to redouble our efforts as a community to get students back on track.”

The report findings drew from national research on student learning loss during the summer months and the natural disasters such as Hurricanes Katrina and Harvey. This data was then compared to Atlanta-area statistics reflecting how schoolwide student attendance impacts growth and achievement on the Georgia Milestones.

This approach is based on the more conservative assumption that the steady improvement in proficiency over proceeding years remains at 2019 levels. If the study assumed continued steady improvement, even more students may have been impacted by the lack of in-person instruction.

The report commissioned by redefinED Atlanta and Learn4Life includes several possible solutions for education policymakers, including:

♦ Assess all students to secure a baseline to determine the actual learning loss when students return to school.

♦ Lengthen the school year and/or school day by 5% for the next two years.

♦ Prioritize math instruction as well as reading during any future remote learning.

To read the report, visit redefinedatlanta.org/covid-19-report.

To read more about metro Atlanta school district’s plans to address this learning loss, visit bit.ly/38dQxOl.

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