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Georgia Milestones tests tougher

By Kay S. Pedrotti Students who scored in higher percentages on former tests did not ‘suddenly get dumber’ as a result of Georgia Milestones scoring, said Lamar schools superintendent Dr. Jute Wilson. ’They have been asked to clear a higher bar,’ he said. ‘The Milestones have four levels, each defined as designations that shift the focus away from just test scores; instead, capturing the progression of students’ learning.’ Specific information on how students performed on the Milestones testing in 2104-15 will be sent out to parents this week, Wilson said. Then parents will know the full descriptions and instructions for help with Georgia Milestones learning categories, he added. Wilson said with the old assessments, 80-90% of students statewide performed at the ‘Meets/Exceeds’ levels. With Georgia Milestones, only about 30 percent of students performed at the ‘Proficient/ Distinguished’ levels. ’The percentage of students in the Distinguished category statewide is in the single digits for every Georgia Milestones subject. Private schools are not required to do these tests.’ The new program differs from the former EOCT and CRCT testing, asking students to engage in ‘in-depth learning,’ said the superintendent. It’s important to get the right answers, he added, but students will have to explain how they got that answer, the steps they took to get there, and other types of replies that indicate whether the student has understood the course material. ’For instance,’ he said, ‘those who are good at math, but not good at reading, will not usually score well on Milestones math tests. Each component is ‘˜reading-heavy,’ and if the student doesn’t comprehend the meanings in a math-problem description, they won’t get it right.’ The tests are English/language arts, math, science and social studies and are taken by third through eighth graders as ‘end of grade’ testing. In high school, students take end-ofcourse tests in each of their subjects as well as the Milestones tests. According to state definitions of the four categories in Milestones: ‘Distinguished Learners demonstrate advanced proficiency in the knowledge and skills necessary at this grade level/course of learning … (and) are well prepared for the next grade level or course, and are well prepared for college and career readiness.’ ’Proficient Learners demonstrate proficiency in the knowledge and skills necessary at this grade level/course of study (and are) prepared for the next grade level ‘¦ and are on track for college and career readiness.’ ’Developing Learners demonstrate partial proficiency in the knowledge and skills required at this grade level/course of study … (and) need additional academic support to ensure success in the next grade level or course and to be on track for college and career readiness.’ ‘Beginning Learners do not yet demonstrate proficiency in the knowledge and skills necessary at this grade level …(and) need substantial academic support to be prepared (for the next grade level and college and career readiness).’ Recent preliminary results from the state show that Lamar County performed comparably with area schools, better than some and worse than others (see graphic above). In the categories, some Lamar percentages were: Grade 3 – English: Beginning, 33%; Developing, 40%; Proficient, 21%, and Distinguished, 6%. Grade 8 – English: Beginning, 32%; Developing, 38%; Proficient, 28%, Distinguished, 3%. High School U.S. History: Beginning, 28%; Developing, 37%; Proficient, 29%; Distinguished, 4%. Wilson said the new tests are ‘much more diagnostic’ than previous tests, pinpointing where students have strengths and weaknesses. He said there is no guarantee that Milestones is the final method or standard of testing in Georgia and won’t change. ’I’m a great believer in doing the best we can with what we have,’ he said. ‘We’ll keep doing what we need to do and see what the future holds. I think there are many good things about Milestones, particularly that it helps us identify where and how students may need help.’

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