The Georgia Milestones Assessment Test results were released last week and you’ll, no doubt be hearing a lot about the results. Some schools will have a lot to crow about, with good reason, because the tests are an indication of the level of education being delivered at the respective areas elementary, middle and high public schools. However, as the numbers point out, some schools have a lot of work to do.
It is not your imagination, our students are being tested and tested and tested again. The results for the Spring 2017 assessment tests are end of grade tests and end of course tests. The end of grade tests, depending on grade level, include certain subjects, and the end of course tests included subjects such as Coordinate Algebra, Physical Science, Biology, U.S. History, Economics, American Literature and Composition, Algebra 1, Geometry and Analytic Geometry.
The testing starts in the third-grade and while personnel in district offices will be pouring over the data to determine which principals and their teachers did an outstanding job and why, they are also looking at under performing schools and asking the same question.
In all the tests, no matter the subject, students will fall into one of four categories:
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▪ Beginning Learner
▪ Developing Learner
▪ Proficient Learner
▪ Distinguished Learner
In general, when looking at school numbers (available at the Georgia Department of Education website) you would like to see low Beginning and Developing Learner percentages and high Proficient and Distinguished Learner percentages.
For example, only one school in Bibb County, the Academy for Classical Education, when looking at third-grade English Language Arts results, had more than 50 percent of its students scoring in the Proficient Learner and above category (that’s good). However, 11 schools scored 50 percent and above for students in the Beginning Learners category with five over 70 percent (not good). Certainly that’s not as serious in the third-grade as it would be in the higher grades, but it does present a glaring challenge to schools with high numbers in the beginning category no matter the subject or grade.
Question, do the numbers change at those schools by the fifth-grade? Yes, but the percentage of Beginning Learners is still way too high and only two schools, Springdale Elementary (54.8) and the Academy for Classical Education (63.1) have over 50 percent of students in the Proficient Learner and above category.
Moving to middle schools there is a real problem and it’s clear to see why Superintendent Curtis Jones made reading one of the pillars of his administration when he arrived in 2015. Bibb County has eight middle schools and three have high percentages of Beginning Learners in English Language Arts —Appling (48.7), Weaver (53.7) and Ballard-Hudson (62.3). Here’s the issue. These students were about to enter high school when they took this test and they had just a rudimentary understanding of the subject they had been taking most of their lives. That does not bode well for their high school success.
The absence of reading proficiency really raises its ugly head in high school courses such as U.S. History where three of the six high schools had percentages of Beginning Learners in the end of course test above 65 percent. The three schools did better in American Literature & Composition, however, the Beginning Learner percentages were still above 40 percent.
All of the statistics we’ve mention thus far are of no importance to the average parent that must break down the stats and ask two very simple questions of their child’s teachers: “How did ‘MY’ child do on the tests” and “What’s the plan to get him or her into the ‘Distinguished Learner’ category?”
Those test results are only available from the child’s school and every parent needs to know where their child lands on the spectrum of learning, otherwise they are just statistics sitting on a page.
A child’s education is a team sport and everyone on the team has several roles to play. Consider the Milestones Assessment Tests just one tool for families, administrators and teachers to use in developing a road map for each individual child so they can reach educational excellence.