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As Georgia rolls out new Milestones and testing moves online, how is it going?

I am getting varied reports on the roll out of the state's new online Georgia Milestones testing this week.

Here is what Tift County sent me:

Our students began testing today with all but two of our schools doing 100 percent online (those two schools are doing 30 percent online). We have gotten rave reviews from staff and students. They have loved not using the paper tests, worrying about eraser marks and keeping up with so many booklets.

But here is what a local teacher sent me:

Was just curious about the reason for the lack of coverage regarding the problems with yesterday's statewide online assessments. There were statewide problems with the screen-reader application, which serves as an accommodation for special education students. The server crashed, and students stared at lagging and frozen screens, sometimes for hours, before the state finally advised school systems to end the session for those affected students. After a year of preparation, this was an epic failure on the state's part, and yet the media has been relatively silent.

The anti-testing movement, which is strongest in New York, is also surfacing in Georgia where there are more reports of parents opting their kids out the Milestones tests. However, as the AJC noted in its long piece on the opt-out movement, true numbers are hard to come by because no one maintains an official tally in Georgia.

My twins are in intense testing mode but not due to Georgia Milestones; they are among the high schoolers in the state prepping to take the College Board's AP exams, which they and their school take seriously. There is no opt-out movement around AP tests, which I assume is because parents believe there's value in them and because kids can get college credit if they score high enough. Also, selective colleges expect students to show at least four AP classes on their high school transcripts so it may be parents feel there is no choice.

Here is an AJC summary of the new Georgia Milestones exams:

>Created to align with Common Core standards Georgia adopted in 2010, it replaces the Criterion-Referenced Competency Test for grades 3-8 and the End of Course Tests for middle and high school students.

>It contains more open-ended questions and a writing component and measures a student's performance relative to other students, rather than being criterion-referenced, which measures mastery of academic material.

>Georgia plans to have all students take the Milestones exam online by its fifth year.

>CTB/McGraw-Hill won a $107.8 million, five-year contract to develop the tests.

>Milestones test scores will not be used to promote students or assess teachers in the test's first year.

>The state expects students' initial scores to be lower than on past assessments and will use them to calculate growth and work with teachers, said Melissa Fincher,  Georgia Department of Education deputy superintendent of assessment and accountability.

>Students taking the Milestones test will spend the same number of days but slightly less time each day than with the CRCT.

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About the Author

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