22 Questions in 2022: How did COVID-19 impact TCSS test scores?

Published 12:30 pm Sunday, February 27, 2022

In August, Superintendent Brian Shumate acknowledged that like every school in the state, the COVID-19 pandemic had played a role in lower test scores from the Georgia Milestones Assessment.

However, one major difference in the results was that TCSS only saw the number of students tested decline by 9% between 2021 and 2019, while the state saw 36% fewer students tested overall. There was not a GMAS assessment in 2020.

Shumate wanted every single student to test, even virtual students who weren’t required to take the assessment, to get an idea of where TCSS stood overall.  In an interview in January, Shumate updated The LaGrange Daily News with how he felt the Omicron surge had impacted the school system.

At the time, the school system was returning back from winter break and Shumate said he felt good in his decision to continue in-person learning.

“I’m a little more of the mindset of kids need to be in school.  I do feel good even though we’ve had learning loss. We’ve done about as good a job as anybody of I would say protecting the social [and] emotional health of kids,” Shumate said.

Shumate said the school system worked hard to accommodate their students when the pandemic first hit. He said he does not believe TCSS lost touch with as many students as schools across the nation did.

“We bent over backward delivering food [and] we checked on every kid. We made them all come into test last spring. People talk about losing all these kids around the country, we didn’t lose them. We lost a few,” he said.

Shumate said the school board will continue to focus on academic achievement and hopes to see some progress in test scores this spring.

“We’re really trying to focus on academic achievement, reading abilities, mathematical understanding and really head into the springtime as we start to take these state assessments and so forth and do really well. I’m looking for some focused progress on all of our instructional programming,” Shumate said.

Joshua Moneypenny, director of technology for TCSS, said in November that one of the main ways the school system adapted to the pandemic was implementing a new management system and getting technology to allow for virtual schooling.

“Most of what we did because of the pandemic was we implemented a new learning management system,” Moneypenny said. “[It] allowed, especially in the early days, [for] the virtual school to happen, which was something we had to do from the ground up. This included training all the teachers and then the next thing we focused on was getting a Chromebook for every student.”

Moneypenny also said the technology department will expand to accommodate for teachers and students who may run into issues with the technology.

“We’re expanding our department so that we can have a dedicated technician at every middle and high school. That way, we can offer a lot quicker response time for teachers and students when it comes to issues,” Moneypenny said.

Moneypenny said the school system will focus on student safety with the new technology.

“We try to focus on student safety. We have a lot of safeguards in place to protect students while they are on the internet,” he said. “We’re rolling out some additional features that allow parents to control the internet on their student’s Chromebook while they’re at home [and] outside of our control.”

Shumate said part of the TCSS culture has been to be adaptable and light so they can make changes and have enough resources.

“It’s become a part of our culture to be more adaptable and light on our feet to make sure that we can make changes quickly and decisively and that we have enough resources,” he said. “We’re prepared to adapt to the new world as a result of the pandemic better than we probably ever have been before.”