Get Schooled

Your source to discuss and learn about education in Georgia and the nation and share opinions and news with Maureen Downey

Fewer Georgia students score proficient on Milestones. DeKalb expects 'greater achievement' in future

As expected, far fewer Georgia students were deemed proficient under a new testing series rolled out in the 2014-2015 school year. The Georgia Milestones tests challenged many students, who found themselves deemed beginner learners, a euphemism for failing.

According to the AJC: (This article has a good primer on the Milestones.)

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s analysis of the performance of one group of students, for example, shows more struggling to meet basic standards than with the old tests the Milestones replaced: at least 97 percent of elementary schools with 10 or more students taking the third grade English test had a higher failure rate than the year before, the final time the Criterion-Referenced Competency Test (CRCT) was given.

“We have a lot of kids who are at the beginning level,” said Bill Caritj, the Atlanta Public Schools testing chief. “Beginning” means failing under the new grading system. The Georgia Department of Education released the scores Monday.

Students in districts with high poverty struggled the most. For instance, in DeKalb County 43.7 percent failed third grade English while in Atlanta Public Schools 41.3 percent failed. In other major metro districts — Cobb, Fulton and Gwinnett counties — about a quarter of that group failed.

DeKalb issued a statement on its performance. (See the response of the Atlanta Public Schools here.)

From DeKalb County School District:

The DeKalb County School District’s Georgia Milestones End-of-Course and End-of-Grade test scores highlight student progress in academic proficiency across the district.

In language arts, 29 elementary schools met or exceeded the state average in the percentage of students in 3rd, 4th, and 5th grades, scoring in the two highest categories, Proficient Learner and Distinguished Learner. There are 10 Title I elementary schools.

Likewise, 21 elementary schools met or exceeded state averages in the percentage of students in the highest scoring bands for mathematics.  On average, over 20 elementary schools scored in the highest bands of performance for both science and social studies.  There are 85 elementary schools in the district.

In school language arts, eight middle schools showed significant proficiency in the percentage of students in 6th, 7th, and 8th grades by scoring in the Proficient Learner or Distinguished Learner performance bands, either meeting or exceeding state averages. Four middle schools are designated for Title I. There are 19 middle schools in the district.

On average, 59 percent of students in the district scored within or above the scoring range for Lexile Levels, a scale for measuring the reading ability of a student.

Across the district, at least 30 percent of high school students completing the Ninth Grade Literature, U.S. History, and Economics Spring 2015 End-of-Course assessments scored in state’s highest performance categories, illustrating significant proficiency in the mastery of content standards. The district’s increase of 10.6 percentage points in high school graduation rates for School Years 2014 and 2015 also supports positive performance among our high school students.  There are 22 high schools in the district.

Schools exhibiting 80 percent or more of their students scoring in the highest performance levels in one or more content areas include:

-   Austin ES

-  Chamblee Charter HS

-   DeKalb School for the Arts

-   Kittredge Magnet

-  Vanderlyn ES

-   Wadsworth Magnet

“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,” said Superintendent R. Stephen Green. “Together with earlier improved results in SAT scores and graduation 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.”

For those schools that need significant improvement, the district has undertaken the following initiatives to improve student academic outcomes:

•The Curriculum, Instruction, Assessment, and Accountability (CIA²) Task force is rebuilding the teaching and learning foundation to ensure that all students obtain rigorous instruction, in all classrooms, in all schools.

•Family & Community Engagement programs ensure parents are included and supported in their roles in the learning process. This includes parent workshops, training in the use of Academic Parent Teacher Teams, school events, regional Parent Centers, and the District’s pilot of a tool for online family engagement on demand (FAM-FLIX).

•Wrap-Around Services address the social-emotional impacts of the learning process including strategic use of Counselors, Social Workers, Student Engagement Coaches, Student Success Coaches, Post-Secondary Transition Specialists, and other critical positions to support students dealing with challenges that may impact their learning or matriculation toward graduation.

•Incentives and support are in place to recruit, hire, and retain highly effective teachers in schools that are considered more challenged. The district Effectiveness Team supports and monitors key performance indicators.  This team reports twice a month directly to Superintendent Green.

The Georgia Milestones Assessment System (Georgia Milestones) is a comprehensive summative assessment program spanning 3rd grade through high school.  Georgia Milestones measures how well students have learned the knowledge and skills outlined in the state-adopted content standards in language arts, mathematics, science, and social studies.  Students in 3rd – 8th grades take an end-of-grade assessment in each content area, while high school students take an end-of-course assessment for each of the eight courses designated by the State Board of Education. From lowest to highest, student scores on this new assessment place students into the following performance levels: Beginning Learner, Developing Learner, Proficient Learner, and Distinguished Learner.

The Georgia DOE will offer credit toward the 2015 College and Career Ready Performance Index (CCRPI) scores for all students scoring in the Developing Learners, Proficient Learners, and Distinguished Learners performance levels.  Developing Learners are learners that typically require moderate academic intervention to advance to Proficient Learner. On average, 30-35 percent of students in DeKalb County scored in the Developing Learner performance level, indicating that these students only require moderate academic intervention to become a Proficient Learner and that significant academic progress is achievable.



Reader Comments ...

About the Author

Maureen Downey has written editorials and opinion pieces about local, state and federal education policy since the 1990s.