Report: COVID-19 Pandemic Caused Metro Atlanta Students To Lose Academic Ground

New research from Georgia State University’s Metro Atlanta Policy Lab for Education (MAPLE) shows on average metro Atlanta students lost ground during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The analysis used test data from three Atlanta school districts to determine where students are versus where they would be had the pandemic not happened.

The results show the average slowdown in achievement growth ranged from zero to seven months of learning for eighth-grade math and 7.5 months for seventh-grade reading.

“What we found was that the pandemic has reduced learning growth for many students,” says Tim Sass, a distinguished university professor at GSU, faculty director for MAPLE and one of the study’s researchers. “That impact has increased over time. So for many students, they can be months behind where they would normally be had the pandemic not occurred.”

Sass says how much time students spent learning virtually played a big role in the progress they made.

Time spent learning remotely varied by district. Some spent most of the pandemic online; others moved to a hybrid system before returning to in-person learning most days.

“For the students that did return to classrooms, their rate of learning per day was higher than for students who stayed fully remote,” Sass says. “But it was still behind what students normally learn per day in the pre-pandemic period.”

Sass says there are a number of reasons why remote learning wasn’t as effective for most students.

“Clearly some students were disadvantaged in terms of access to digital devices and high-speed internet connections,” he says. “It’s also just tougher to learn in an at-home environment. In many cases, obviously, parents were stressed with many effects of the pandemic — whether it be job loss or trying to balance working at home and teaching their kids.”

GSU says the impact of the pandemic has been uneven, affecting families differently.

Rather than a one-size-fits-all approach, researchers recommend specific strategies to help students who need the most help, including high-dosage tutoring, providing academic programs during school breaks — like summer –and extending the school day.