The latest results on Georgia’s state standardized tests show slight gains in two key areas, English for younger students and math for those about to enter high school.

New Milestones scores: Some progress, but challenges persist

The state today released spring scores on the Georgia Milestones, which reveal gains in reading for third graders and in math for middle schoolers about to enter high school.

As is often the case, the AJC review of the results is not quite as sunny as the state Department of Education release.

Bottom line from the AJC: Despite those increases in reading and math, just over a third of students have mastered those subjects by the two critical junctures where proficiency becomes destiny.

The ability to read at grade level or above by third grade is seen as a barometer of future academic performance. And it is essential that eighth graders graduate with the math foundation necessary to grasp the rigorous content that awaits them in high school. 

But the 2017-2018 test scores show only 37 percent of third graders achieved the two highest tiers of reading performance, “distinguished,” or “proficient,” which conveys they’re prepared for the challenges of the next grade. The rest performed in the “developing” and “beginning” range, which means they are below where they need to be to excel and may struggle. 

The same situation exists for eighth grade math, where nearly two-thirds of kids scored within the two lower levels -- indicating they could face a tough time with math in high school and require extra help to succeed.

The AJC data folks have pulled out school scores for Atlanta Public Schools, Cobb, Clayton, DeKalb, Fulton and Gwinnett. The first column shows the percentage proficient and above last year and the second shows this year.  The third column shows the change over the year. Also, you can click the arrows next to district to find your school.

Third grade reading

Eighth grade math

Here is the state DOE release:

Georgia students showed strong gains on the spring 2018 Georgia Milestones assessments.

Scores increased in most subject areas, with the largest increases being recorded in third grade math and high school biology, physical science, and economics. 

Statewide, the percentage of students achieving the Proficient Learner level and above increased or held steady on 22 of 26 End of Grade (EOG) and End of Course (EOC) assessments (compared to 18 of 26 assessments in 2017). Students who achieve the Proficient Learner designation are considered on track to being college- and career-ready.    

“We are seeing significant improvements in student performance year over year,” State School Superintendent Richard Woods said. “In almost every subject area, there are more students achieving the Proficient and Distinguished performance levels. We’re beginning to see the impact of our efforts to expand opportunities for students – not focusing solely on the tested areas but genuinely providing a well-rounded education. Some of the areas we’ve focused heavily on, like fine arts and career education, aren’t directly tested on Georgia Milestones but they have an enormous effect on students’ ability to achieve academically and their overall engagement in their education. We’re starting to see the results of that more holistic approach.” 

About the test

Students began taking Georgia Milestones assessments in 2014-15. The testing system is one comprehensive program across grades 3-12, which includes open-ended questions to better gauge students’ content mastery.

Georgia Milestones assesses student learning along four levels of achievement:

Beginning Learners 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 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 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 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.

Moving forward

“I continue to support a reduction of standardized testing to get Georgia in line with the federal minimum,” State School Superintendent Richard Woods said. “Making this a reality will require a change in state law, and I will push for this change in the upcoming legislative session.”

 Georgia law requires a comprehensive summative assessment program in grades 3-12, including End of Grade assessments in ELA and math for grades 3-8, End of Grade assessments in science and social studies for grades 5 and 8, and End of Course assessments in designated core subjects for grades 9-12. Those subjects are: 9th grade Literature and Composition, American Literature and Composition, Algebra I or Coordinate Algebra, Geometry or Analytic Geometry, Biology, Physical Science, U.S. History, and Economics.

 This exceeds the federal requirement to test students yearly in grades 3-8, and at least once in high school, in math and reading or language arts; and at least once per grade band (3-5, 6-9, and 10-12) in science.

About the Author

Maureen Downey
Maureen Downey
Maureen Downey is a longtime reporter for the AJC where she has written editorials and opinion pieces about local, state and federal education policy for...
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