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MCS sees third-grade reading score growth five times larger than the state, metro Atlanta area

Marietta City Schools (MCS) has not just raised the bar; it has set a new standard for student growth in third-grade reading. On the 2023 Georgia Milestones, MCS saw scores grow five times greater than the state of Georgia and the metro Atlanta area. This achievement represents the highest MCS mean scale score since the implementation of the Georgia Milestones in 2015—a testament to the district’s commitment to the science of reading and a community-wide focus on literacy.

“To see this unprecedented growth it was necessary to change our approach to reading instruction. We didn’t need to buy another program,” said Superintendent Grant Rivera. “We needed to believe in and follow the research about how to develop the reading brain. We invested in our educators, and the results are clear: Our efforts are not just closing the literacy gap; they're striving to eliminate it."

On the Georgia Milestones, the data reveals an extraordinary leap in MCS's third-grade mean score, soaring 20 points from 498 in 2022 to 518 in 2023. This growth rate markedly outperforms the modest four-point gains recorded statewide and in the metro area. MCS also achieved a 12.8% gain in “All” students performing at the “Proficient” and “Distinguished” achievement levels in third-grade reading.

Although gains were made across every subgroup, the most impressive gains were made by the Students with Disabilities (15.9%), Black (15.3%), and Economically Disadvantaged (14.3%) subgroups.

MCS's success is the result of Literacy and Justice for All (LJFA), a community-wide and United Way-funded effort to support every child in Marietta to reach their fullest reading potential. MCS has a training partner in the Atlanta Speech School, the nation's most comprehensive center for language and literacy, to create a language-centered ecosystem and learning environment from birth through third grade.

The MCS Board of Education also committed $7 million for the upcoming school year to combat learning loss and ensure literacy for all students. This funding provides 40 full-time reading specialists for intensive instruction, delivered through a 1:10 teacher-student ratio, for students in grades 1-5 who are reading below grade level.

“These results are a shining affirmation of the effectiveness of the science of reading,” said MCS Board Chair Kerry Minervini. “We're seeing the tangible benefits of our robust literacy initiative, and it's our students who are reaping the rewards."

The success is not limited to the Georgia Milestones. MCS also administers the Measure of Academic Progress (MAP), a nationally normed assessment that compares Marietta student performance to other students in 24,000 school districts in all 50 states. Across every student subgroup, when comparing longitudinal achievement gains for students from second to third grade (2022 to 2023), MCS achieved the following gains in student Lexile performance: Multiracial (21.2%), English Learners (30.8%), Black (16.6%), Economically Disadvantaged (22.5%), White (8.2%), Hispanic (24.0%), and Students with Disabilities (20.6%).

“As a passionate early literacy advocate and a parent who understands reading challenges, this progress fills me with hope for every student,” said Ward 4 Board Member Jaillene Hunter, also a Georgia Council on Literacy member. “These remarkable results reinforce our commitment to providing tailored support and resources to empower every learner.”