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.

MORE GEORGIA MILESTONES COVERAGE

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

Atlanta school board delays vote on tax rate
Atlanta school board delays vote on tax rate

A mistake by Atlanta Public Schools means residents will have two more chances to bring property tax concerns to the school board before the board votes to set a tax rate on Aug. 6. The school district announced Saturday that it failed to give proper legal notice regarding the Monday, July 23, meeting, when the board was supposed to hold a final public...
APS delays tax-rate vote after failing to give proper legal notice for meeting
APS delays tax-rate vote after failing to give proper legal notice for meeting

The Atlanta school board will postpone Monday’s vote to set a property tax rate after the district failed to give proper legal notice for the meeting. Atlanta Public Schools announced Saturday afternoon that the school board still would hold a public hearing Monday but would wait until Aug. 6 to vote on the millage rate.  Monday’s...
Big changes for metro Atlanta schools, opening soon
Big changes for metro Atlanta schools, opening soon

More than 800,000 students will return to schools in metro Atlanta by early August, and they and their parents will see some changes, as will anyone who uses the roadways or pays taxes. Seventeen school districts in the metro area will be open by Aug. 8, with most of them starting the week before that. >>See when school districts reopen New laws...
Georgia rises, still in bottom third of Kids Count education rankings
Georgia rises, still in bottom third of Kids Count education rankings

A new snapshot of how Georgia’s children and families are faring offers sobering statistics sprinkled amid good news. For the first time in six years, Georgia climbed higher than No. 40 in the nation in a Kids Count ranking of education, economic, health, and family factors reported by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Not that Georgia...
Texted slur stirs alarm at Georgia Southern
Texted slur stirs alarm at Georgia Southern

A student at Georgia Southern University shared an allegedly racist student text message that caused concern on campus. The student, in screening a new roommate, mistakenly sent out a text to the wrong person, in which she used the slur. The student apologized, saying she meant to type “triggerfish” but that was autocorrected by her phone...
More Stories