Matt Cardoza, GaDOE Communications Office, (404) 651-7358, firstname.lastname@example.org
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Op-Ed by Superintendent Richard Woods
In October, we’ll release student scores for the first
year of the Georgia Milestones Assessment System -- and I want to caution that
scores will likely reflect a smaller percentage of students who are proficient
than we have seen in previous years.
an Honest Assessment of Where We Are
Why will scores likely reflect a smaller percentage of
students who are proficient? Because Georgia Milestones sets a significantly
higher bar for student proficiency compared to the old Criterion-Referenced
Competency Test (CRCT). That’s not an arbitrary decision. Under the CRCT,
Georgia had some of the lowest expectations in the nation for its students. Too
many students were labeled as proficient when, in reality, they had not fully
mastered the standards and needed additional support. That hurt our kids, who
need to be competitive with others across the country and hurt our teachers by
making it difficult for them to have a true picture of the academic strengths
and weakness of their students.
We have been consistently criticized for having a gap
between proficiency on our state tests and proficiency on the National
Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), which is considered the gold standard
of tests. Many of these reports
have appropriately stated that what we require of our students on state tests
doesn’t come close to the standard on the NAEP. That is simply unacceptable. If
we are going to address students’ needs, then we must be honest about how much
they really know.
Again, Georgia Milestones will not show that Georgia’s
students know less than they did before. It shows that the bar has been raised,
and raising the bar is what we must do to make sure a Georgia student has equal
or greater opportunities than a student anywhere else in the United
the Bar, Increasing Supports
We will not raise the bar without increasing our supports
for students and teachers. By adding additional social studies, science, and
early grades positions at the state level, and strengthening professional
learning through both in-person and virtual opportunities, we are building a
strong foundation on which we can build long-term learning.
Toward a More Meaningful Assessment System
A major change with this new test is that it assesses
student learning along four levels of performance, rather than just three, as
was the case for the CRCT. The Milestones achievement levels are Beginning
Learner, Developing Learner, Proficient Learner, and Distinguished Learner.
These designations aim to shift the focus away from just test scores, instead
capturing the progression of student learning. Additional levels help teachers
better pinpoint where their kids are and give students more opportunities to
succeed. Proficiency will now mean that students have truly demonstrated a
strong understanding of the standards, while a new achievement level –
Developing Learner – will identify students who can proceed to the next grade
level or course but will need additional support to be successful.
Another change is with the quality of feedback. Instead
of providing the number correct for different learning domains, parents,
teachers, and students are shown which area a student needs Remediate Learning,
Monitor Learning, or Accelerate Learning. Such clear direction for specific
concepts and skills should increase stakeholder involvement as well as academic
improvement. More importantly, it continues the shift to an assessment system
that treats students as more than data points.
I’m encouraged by these changes and am committed to
making sure Georgia’s students are competitive nationwide, but we must – and we
will – expand to a system with more diagnostic features so that teachers and
students have more timely and meaningful information.
Accountability with Responsibility
Because we know these results will be a new baseline,
scores for the 2014-2015 school year will not impact teacher evaluations or the
promotion and retention of students. We will continue to monitor progress
closely and will make decisions in a responsible way.
Commitments Instead of Comparisons
To clarify, an apples-to-apples comparison between CRCT
scores and Georgia Milestones scores is not possible. They are two totally
different tests, with different expectations set for student achievement.
Because the expectations set by the Georgia Milestones system are higher, it is
likely the percentage of students considered proficient will initially be
lower. This lower percentage of proficiency does not mean Georgia students know
less. It means they’ve been asked to clear a higher bar.
In summary, Milestones is a much needed improvement and a
step in the right direction. However, there is much work still to be done in
the area of assessment. We need to have an honest picture of where our children
are academically. Since No Child Left Behind, there has been too much focus on
tests over teaching, scores over students, and data points over daily
interactions. We must continue to have a truly honest discussion and open
dialogue on assessment in Georgia and in our nation. Information must be
provided in a timely manner to students, parents, and teachers in order to
improve student performance.
I am fully committed to an assessment model that paints a
clear and accurate picture of where our students are and how to get them where
they need to be – an assessment system that provides purpose instead of just
percentiles and data points.