State testing is about to start in several Middle Georgia school districts, and some students have part of their summer and grade-level promotions on the line.
Bibb, Houston and Peach counties are among the districts beginning the annual Georgia Milestones assessments Monday. Others will start later this month.
Statewide, students in third grade through high school are required to take the standardized exams. Fifth- and eighth-graders are tested on math, science, social studies and English, and students in third, fourth, sixth and seventh grades take just math and English assessments, according to the Georgia Department of Education.
High school students take end-of-course assessments in 10 courses, and their scores count for 20 percent of their final course grades.
Georgia third-graders have to score at or above grade level on the reading portion of the test to move on to fourth grade. Fifth- and eighth-graders have to rank at or above grade level in reading and at least as a "developing learner" in math to be promoted. However, all but two school districts in the state are charter systems or Strategic Waiver School System districts, which can waive promotion and retention requirements, said Meghan Frick, the department's communications director.
Students can retake sections they fail, and their parents can file appeals with the school district if they don't pass the retest. Last year, about 260, or 5.1 percent of Bibb's third-, fifth- and eighth-graders, were held back, said Tanzy Kilcrease, assistant superintendent of teaching and learning.
Bibb students who don't meet Milestones promotion standards will have to attend summer remediation from June 4 until the retest June 25-28, according to a report from the school system. The district also required remediation last summer, and 1,671 students attended. The summer program was optional for students in 2016.
The Houston district has remediation plans in place for students who fail the Milestones, and retests will be given May 15-18, said Chuck Dumas, assessment coordinator for Houston County schools.
Tony Jones, Bibb County's director of research, evaluation, assessment and accountability, urged parents not to put too much stress on their children about the tests. Teachers have done a great job this year preparing students for the assessment. Dumas said educators have been teaching the learning standards throughout the year and reviewing material as needed.
"We just need to make it as normal as can be, try to remain as cool and collected as can be," Jones said. "Whatever their routine is is what they need to continue to do. Our students, they’re ready. They’ve prepared for this. They know it’s game time."
It's vital for students to get plenty of rest and eat breakfast before the exams, Dumas said. The Houston district is providing free breakfasts to students who are testing, even if they don't normally receive free meals. The Bibb district offers free breakfast and lunch to all students through the federal Community Eligibility Provision, according to the school nutrition department.
“Students (need to) be calm and remember one test doesn’t define who they are. Just to do their best," Dumas said.
Jones and Dumas said almost all students in their districts will be tested by computer, with the exception of children with special requirements such as Braille or large print.
Parents can visit gaexperienceonline.com for a Milestones testing tutorial and sample questions. This is just one of the platforms that the Houston district uses with students to get them acquainted with the test.
“We think we’re going to have a good testing session. We’re excited to see some results come back," Jones said.