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Thomas Goldring:

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Two years into the pandemic, little information has been available about how students in the metro-Atlanta area are performing academically. Metro districts have adopted different strategies to help students navigate and recover from the pandemic, including small-group tutoring, expanded summer school programs, and additional supports for technology use and student health and wellness. This report continues the Metro Atlanta Policy Lab for Education’s research agenda analyzing how the pandemic has affected student achievement in math and reading in metro-Atlanta districts.

In this updated report, Tim Sass and Thomas Goldring used administrative data from three districts: Clayton County Public Schools, Fulton County Schools, and a third district that has chosen to remain anonymous. Our outcomes of interest were math and reading scores on the iReady and MAP Growth formative assessments. We used national percentile rankings to measure student progress, comparing student achievement during the pandemic to that of students throughout the U.S. from before the pandemic.

We find that the impact of the pandemic on student achievement growth has been greater in math than in reading; reading achievement has rebounded more than math. Students who were in elementary school when the pandemic hit have fared worse than students who were in middle school. Average performance in metro-Atlanta districts was similar to many other districts around the country. Many students have started to recover academically, but improvement is uneven. We find differences in achievement trends by geography and by economic status within at least one district and by race and ethnicity within multiple districts.

Our findings have several policy implications. Recovery efforts ought to target students who experienced the greatest declines in national rankings and have been the slowest to recover. Research-supported recovery strategies include high-intensity, small-group tutoring; extended learning time; and extensive summer academic learning programs. Acceleration efforts are more effective if offered during the regular school day (where possible). Frequent participation, which may need to be mandated or incentivized, is key to the programs’ success.