Milestones no longer primary factor for moving up a grade in Cobb


Beginning in the fall, the Georgia Milestones test won’t solely determine whether Cobb County students advance to the next grade level. The standardized test results will be just one of the components considered. 

The Cobb County school board decided to put less emphasis on the statewide test in a unanimous vote last week.

“There should be a panoramic view about a kid’s promotion, retention, and placement. It shouldn’t be boiled down to one test,” said David Morgan, longtime Cobb school board member.

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In addition to the Milestones results, “multiple performance indicators collected throughout the year” will influence promotion and retention decisions for students, said a statement from the school system.

These “performance indicators” will include teacher commentary and students’ Lexile scores. The indicators will prevent students from “being let off the hook. They will not be ill prepared or just passed along,” Morgan said.

State law requires schools to use Milestones scores as the metric for grade promotion. Cobb was able to waive this provision because of its “flexibility” contract with the state.  In exchange for higher accountability, school systems with this type of contract have more freedom from state rules.

The statewide Milestones tests, introduced in 2014, score students in core subjects including English, math, science and social studies. But, the tests have suffered execution problems, and critics have asserted that Milestones are an inaccurate measure of a student’s skill level.

“A student is so much more than one test. We should take that entire year, the entire student, into account when we decide if they should advance,” said Connie Jackson, president of the Cobb County Association of Educators.

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Although Cobb’s new policy eases Milestones requirements for promotion, the annual test will continue to be administered. “We do not disvalue testing, but there is a point when it comes to be too much,” board chairman David Chandler said. “The state can set standards, but one size does not fit all.”

The board’s decision demonstrates progress in Cobb County, said Jackson, leader of the county teachers group. “Unfortunately, the whole education system had moved towards ‘teaching to a test,” she said. “Cobb County is a leader in the movement to bring it back to student-centered teaching.” 

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