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Milestones-Scores will affect promotion/retention in 2016

Tift County Schools, along with other systems in Georgia, will receive its 2014-2015 Georgia Milestones Assessment System test scores for grades 3 – 12 in October. School officials fully expect the 2014-2015 results to show a lower level of student proficiency than the formerly used CRCT test showed.

“There are two reasons Tift County, and other schools throughout the state, will see fewer students excelling on the new standardized test,” said Mickey Weldon, Chief Academic Officer with Tift County Schools. “One is that 2014-2015 was the first school year students took the GMAS test, and anytime you move to a new system, a drop can be expected. The second is the state Department of Education raised the baseline of what is considered proficient for scores.”

 State School Superintendent Richard Woods said this does not mean Georgia students know less or that teachers are not doing a great job – it means they’ve been asked to clear a higher bar.  

 “Our previous assessment, the CRCT, set some of the lowest expectations for student proficiency in the nation, and that cannot continue,” Woods said. “Georgia Milestones sets higher standards for our students and evens the playing field with the rest of the nation. If we are going to address students’ needs, then we must be honest about how much they really know. ”

 Georgia Milestones assesses student learning along four levels of performance, compared to three, as was the case for the CRCT.

 “Parents have been accustomed to seeing Exceeds, Meets or Does Not Meet,” Weldon said. “The Milestones test uses Beginning, Developing, Proficient and Distinguished Learners.”

These designations aim to shift the focus away from just test scores, instead capturing the progression of students’ learning:  

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.

 “Obviously, the scores we are receiving next month were not used to determine grade promotion or retention for the 2014-15 academic year,” Weldon said. “We have been told we will receive test results from the Spring 2016 administration before the end of the school year, so they will be a factor in the 2015-16 promotion decisions.”

 In order to be considered eligible for promotion, students in grades three, five, and eight must demonstrate they can read and comprehend grade-level material. Students’ performance on the reading component of the English/Language Arts test will determine whether the student is reading below grade level or on/above grade level.  Students will also receive a Lexile score based on their reading skill.  In addition to the reading and language arts components, students in grades five and eight must also demonstrate grade-level skills in mathematics to be eligible for promotion. 

 “Our goal is to prepare students to learn, progress from grade to grade and ultimately graduate,” Superintendent Patrick Atwater said. “We want our students and parents to understand the new Milestones test and know that we are required by the state to use the results in our promotion and retention policy. We will continue to work with our staff members to ensure students are achieving all that they can. We encourage our parents to talk with their teachers and school administrators about the new standards.”