Latest scores show math gains but overall proficiency still elusive

Georgia’s public school students are showing some improvement in math, while the results were mixed in science and English/Language Arts, according to annual data state education officials released Thursday.

The results showed less than half of Georgia students, typically around 40 percent on each grade level, scored proficient or better in math and English/Language Arts. Students in some of metro Atlanta’s largest school districts fared somewhat better.

“We need to keep focused and get more kids in that proficient and distinguished level,” said Dana Rickman, policy and research director for the nonprofit Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education.

State school Superintendent Richard Woods said he was encouraged by the results, but stressed there’s still work to do to improve student performance. He said the data show students are progressing from grade to grade.

“What we are seeing is our students are improving,” Woods said in a telephone interview.

The Milestones are administered starting in third grade. They measure students’ mastery of state educational standards in English, math, science and social studies.

The scores determine which one of four categories students fall into, from non-proficient to complete mastery, and they count for one-fifth of a high school student’s course grade.

The percentage of Georgia students who fared “proficient learner and above” in math and English/Language Arts was the same or slightly better for grades 3, 4, and 6 than last year. There was a slight decline in grades 5 and 7. Eighth-grader proficiency was slightly better in math with a similar percentage decline in English/Language Arts.

Some metro Atlanta’s larger school districts, such as CobbFulton and Gwinnett, had higher percentages than the statewide average of students who were proficient or better. DeKalb officials, whose students are generally below statewide averages, touted some improvements. Fewer DeKalb students than the statewide average scored proficient or better, the data showed. Atlanta students showed some gains, though many students have not yet reached the proficiency level in core areas.

Rickman said the math results were encouraging, particularly since improving student performance has been a decades-long challenge in the state. She believes the improvement can be attributed in part to students better understanding how to take the tests. Woods attributed the improvement to fewer changes by educators in math standards.

“Finally, we have some stability,” he said.


The state will release data later this year detailing how students performed that will be separated by race and those who have trouble learning English.

The Milestones were first administered in the 2014-15 school year, replacing a previous set of tests. The goal was to implement a more rigorous set of test standards that included more open-ended questions to better gauge how well students were actually learning.

Some parents and school board members have criticized the Milestones for reasons ranging from occasional computer glitches during the exams to complaints that the exams don’t truly reflect student performance. Cobb County school board members decided last month that the Milestones won’t solely determine whether Cobb County students advance to the next grade level, because they felt the criteria for promotion shouldn’t be limited to one test. Cobb is able to waive this provision because of its “flexibility” contract with the state.

Newton County Superintendent Samantha Fuhrey requested a waiver from the Georgia Milestones for her district, which the state’s education department declined. She said she did it because of issues with test administration, though she’s also concerned with the time it takes to get scores and what they mean in the long run.

“When we finally get the data, the children have moved on to other things, a different curriculum,” Fuhrey said. “It’s not telling them what they don’t know about the new curriculum, it’s telling what the previous curriculum missed.”

Woods said his team will review its three years of Milestones data and determine later this year if any changes need to be made.

DeKalb County parent Kimberly Rogers has more immediate concerns about the Milestones.

She said she still doesn’t know whether her third-grader will move on to the fourth grade when school begins in about two-and-a-half weeks. Her son, Joseph Rogers, didn’t complete the Georgia Milestones testing when it was administered during the school year at DeKalb’s Narvie Harris Elementary School because of anxiety issues, and took the required summer course and retest several weeks ago. Scores have not been released for the retest.

“He completed summer school, but he still had anxiety about the test,” she said. “Every time they would do a mock test, he would get nauseated, start throwing up.”

After the first test, she only received a score, not information on where Joseph needed to improve. The family’s next step is home-schooling.

“This is frustrating,” she said. “He got three A’s and a B on his last report card, and he could be held back because of anxiety.”

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Education

Morehouse mourns “rock star” professor who helped “Hidden Figures” cast
Morehouse mourns “rock star” professor who helped “Hidden Figures” cast

Rudy Horne, a Morehouse College associate math professor who worked as a consultant on the hit Oscar-nominated film “Hidden Figures,” has died, the college announced Wednesday. Horne began teaching at Morehouse in 2010.  He previously taught at Florida State University, Morehouse officials said. Horne’s job in the film was...
GOP retools higher ed. Less regulation, more job training
GOP retools higher ed. Less regulation, more job training

Charged with updating the Higher Education Act, the House Committee on Education and the Workforce came up with the PROSPER Act — Promoting Real Opportunity, Success, and Prosperity through Education Reform. The bill passed out of committee last night after a 14-hour contentious session. The bill goes now...
Fired APS teacher hit student more than once, tribunal says
Fired APS teacher hit student more than once, tribunal says

An Atlanta autism teacher fired by a unanimous school board vote had allegedly punched a student as many as three times. The Atlanta Board of Education terminated the employment of Angela Christian-Vaughn, 58, last week after it voted to accept a hearing tribunal’s recommendation. The former Ralph J. Bunche Middle School special education teacher...
Georgia Board of Regents approves plans to combine colleges
Georgia Board of Regents approves plans to combine colleges

Georgia’s Board of Regents approved plans Tuesday that will reduce the number of institutions in its system by two, changes officials say will help officials redesign student programs and improve academic performance. Georgia Southern University and Armstrong State University will be consolidated as the new Georgia Southern University. Abraham...
Most, but maybe not all, Paulding Co. schools to reopen Wednesday after storm
Most, but maybe not all, Paulding Co. schools to reopen Wednesday after storm

Paulding County students will return to the classroom Wednesday at 29 of the district’s schools after a snowstorm caused icy roads and left buildings without water. The Paulding County School District announced on social media Tuesday that students and staff at most of its schools will be back in session Wednesday. But the district said it is...
More Stories