School systems across Georgia shared the first test results for the new Georgia Milestones Assessment. According to the stats released on Monday, several Metro Atlanta districts show both high scores and a critical need for academic improvement. The new state measuring tool replaced the Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests (CRCT) and the Georgia High School Graduation Tests (GHSGT). The Milestones’ results are made up of the spring 2015 assessments covering Grades 3-8 (End-of-Grade exams) and Grades 9-12 (End-of-Course exams).
Both Gwinnett and Fulton county schools boast of high achievement numbers that outperformed other students in Metro Atlanta and across the state. Gwinnett County released its stats with a break down of elementary and middle school scores under the exam’s subject areas of: English Language Arts, Mathematics, Science, Social Studies and the High School assessments. Fulton County Schools also released its 2015 results in the two detailed groups of: End-of-Grade scores and the End-of-Course scores.
The Milestones Assessment ratings places students in four designations areas. While the CRCT was solely interested in the scores attained by students, the Milestones’ focus is on academic performance levels based on content understanding. Most importantly it sets the assessment bar much higher than the CRCT. Beyond just bubbling in the right answer, students must provide “open-end and written responses”. Many students even took the spring exam on computers. The rating level are listed as follows:
Beginning Learners (Level 1) do not yet demonstrate proficiency in the knowledge and skills necessary at this grade level/course of learning, as specified in Georgia’s content standards. The students need substantial academic support to be prepared for the next grade level or course and to be on track for college and career readiness.
Developing Learners (Level 2) demonstrate partial proficiency in the knowledge and skills necessary at this grade level/course of learning, as specified by Georgia’s content standards. The students need additional academic support to ensure success in the next grade level or course and to be on track for college and career readiness.
Proficient Learners (Level 3) demonstrate proficiency in the knowledge and skills necessary at this grade level/course of learning, as specified in Georgia’s content standards. The students are prepared for the next grade level or course and are on track for college and career readiness.
Distinguished Learners (Level 4) demonstrate advanced proficiency in the knowledge and skills necessary at this grade level/course of learning, as specified in Georgia’s content standards. The students are well prepared for the next grade level or course and are well prepared for college and career readiness.
Fulton County’s interim superintendent, Kenneth Zeff said, “Although we’re still examining our data, our early analyses show that the percentages of Fulton students scoring ‘Proficient’ or ‘Distinguished’ [Levels 3 and 4] are higher than their state and metro Atlanta [Regional Educational Service Agency] peers. This occurred in all subject areas for both the End-of-Grade exams and End-of-Course exams.”
Dr. Jonathan Patterson, Gwinnett’s Associate Superintendent for Curriculum and Instructional Support said, “The increased rigor of the Georgia Milestones provides us with new information about our students’ learning. We will use this information to assist students who need additional help but also to extend the learning for those students who are achieving at the higher levels and are ready for more challenges.”
In DeKalb County Schools’ release of its Milestones End-of-Course and End-of Grade test results, the District revealed a significant number of students scoring within positive performance levels, and it also showed the District closing the statewide gap in its growth and achievement. For the schools that need improvement, DeKalb has undertaken a list of intensive initiatives to improve student academic outcomes. Some of those steps include making sure parents are more involved in the academic process, and recruiting and retaining highly qualified teachers.
Superintendent R. Stephen Green said, “With this new, more rigorous test and first-time online testing for many students, we anticipated these scores, which will form a baseline for future years’ comparison. Together with earlier improved results in SAT scores and graduates rates, our students are demonstrating significant important growth and we anticipate even greater achievement in the future with our laser focus on classroom instruction and curriculum.”
Clayton County Schools’ leaders held a press conference on Monday to release its 2015-2016 Milestones results. Clayton County pointed to areas where students improved academically including increased graduation rates. District leaders also laid out a plan to address improving future Milestones scores particularly in specific areas under English and Language Arts. Clayton County is also focused on more parent involvement.
Like the CRCT, the Milestones is also used for promotional consideration. Students in grades 3, 5, and 8 must achieve the Developing Learner level 2 and demonstrate they can read and comprehend grade-level material in English/Language Arts in order to advance to the next grade. Students in grades 5 and 8 must also demonstrate grade-level skills of a Developing Learner in the mathematics section.
When the Georgia Milestones was introduced, there was much concern among parents and teachers across the state about how well students would do on this first time test, especially since promotion depended on it. So the state decided to “hold harmless” students under the 2015 test administration and not count it toward promotion. However, the data was still very critical for district and statewide assessment records. The 2016 Milestones administration will be used for promotional consideration for End-of-Grade. The End-of-Course tests will count 20% of a student’s final grade at the end of this school year.