COLUMBIA COUNTY, Ga. – The first round of Georgia Milestones testing is now in the books, and state officials have released less than rosy results – as expected. Columbia County Assistant Superintendent Michele Sherman said districts are now assessing these scores. “We felt like we did well compared to the state so we were pleased with the results,” said Sherman. “We knew that we would feel it in two different ways. One, because the expectations were raised a little bit. And two, the difficulty of the test was also raised.”
The test was given for the first time this past spring. Students in grades 3 through 8 take an end-of-grade assessment, while high school students take an end-of-course assessment. One of the biggest changes is an additional performance level.
“We used to have three levels of proficiency – we did not meet, meets, and exceeds. And now they have divided that into four categories,” said Sherman.
Students now fall into beginning, developing, proficient, or distinguished learning categories. “If you look at proficient and above, those numbers seem to be a good bit lower. But you have to remember that that used to be three categories.”
It’s something Sherman said makes it easier to help notice which students need the most help.
“We used to call them bubble sores – these are kids that just barely passed. We were equally concerned about those students than those who didn’t and so we offered lots of extra support to those students. Now instead of us trying to figure out who those students are, the state has created another level for us.”
Many of those students will fall into the ‘proficient learning’ level. “Even though the developing learner may not be exactly where we want them, we know they’re making progress and they’re on the road to proficiency – which is different from the beginning learner who really might need some remediation or enrichment support to get them to where they need to be.”
Reading, English Language Arts (ELA), and writing have also been composed into one ELA assessment on Georgia Milestones, which Sherman said had a negative impact on that score. “Now when you look at the scores, it appears they’re much lower than they used to be when they look at only reading.”
She says the Georgia Milestones is more rigorous – focusing more on critical thinking skills in language arts and math.
“In the past, in math for example, it may have been heavier in computation. Now the word problems are really beyond simple word problems and they’re usually multi-step, two part.”
Now the focus is on how to improve scores next year and make students better prepared for life after leaving the school system.
“In today’s world of written communication that if we don’t empower our students to become solid writers that they will struggle when they leave us,” said Sherman.
“These results show a lower level of student proficiency than Georgians are used to seeing, but that does not mean Georgia students know less or that teachers are not doing a great job – it means they’ve been asked to clear a higher bar,” State School Superintendent Richard Woods said. “Our previous assessment, the CRCT, set some of the lowest expectations for student proficiency in the nation, and that cannot continue. Georgia Milestones sets higher standards for our students and evens the playing field with the rest of the nation – and that’s essential if our students are going to succeed in college and their chosen careers, both of which are nationally competitive arenas. We will continue to increase our supports for both students and teachers to ensure this test is more meaningful for all involved.”