The state’s new Milestones test requires more from students, city and county education officials agree — and that is generally good.
However, much uncertainty continues about how the results would or should be used.
“Milestones are much more verbal, more multistep thinking” than the previous Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests, Will Schofield, Hall County school superintendent,said.
He said neither Milestones nor the CRCT measure growth in a student’s learning, which he views as critical information.
But Schofield agreed the new test — with changes made in the federal education law — is an improvement over the CRCT because it provides more decision-making, especially about teacher evaluations, at the local and state level.
“You have a dynamic combination of more rigorous standards and higher student performance expectations,” said Kevin Bales, director of middle and secondary education for Hall County.
“For example, one of the common Georgia Standards of Excellence for English Language Arts involves students having the ability to identify inferences in multiple sources by citing textual evidence. Years ago, students would have multiple choice options in hopes of identifying inferences from one source.
“With the Milestones, students will need to show they have ability to apply their learning. Moreover, students have to do so at a much higher rate of accuracy.
“As an example, a student on the previous standardized CRCT tests could reach a passing score of 800 with an accuracy level as low as 38 percent. Those percentages varied by course and grade level. With the Milestones, a student will most likely need closer to 60 percent accuracy in order to be deemed proficient with the standards.”
Wanda Creel, superintendent for Gainesville schools, said Milestone is “truly about an application of knowledge.”
She said Georgia students have had higher curriculum standards since about 2004 but the new test requires students “to be able to articulate how they’ve learned and how they know it.”
She said the challenge of getting students to apply class lessons to different exercises requires teachers to “rethink” how to present information.
Sarah Bell, chief academic officer for Gainesville schools, said, the Georgia Milestones assessment system is more robust than the previous CRCT/EOCT system.
“The standards that are assessed have not changed, but the expectations of the test have,” Bell said. “The expectations for demonstrating proficiency are higher than before and are more aligned with those of other assessments.
“For example, in 2013, 29 percent of eighth-grade students were proficient or above on the math portion of the National Assessment of Educational Process, but the proficiency rate on the eighth-grade math CRCT was 83 percent. This is compared to 28 percent on the NAEP in 2015 and 37 percent on the Milestones.”
Creel characterized the Milestones test as “better for our children” because it measures “how to take their knowledge and … propel the project forward.”
Schofield noted he has “never been a big fan of standardized tests.”
He called the specifics of standards for teacher evaluations “a messy business” and said educators “have a feel” for ways to evaluate the best teachers and the lower-performing teachers but not the “huge middle chunk.”
“We want our kids to do well (on Milestones), but let’s not forget this is not the final word,” he said.
Milestones a step up, but ‘not the final word’