The Gist: The results of the Spring 2018 Georgia Milestones testing are out and statewide, students have made some gains, but the overall picture still shows room for improvement.

The gains: According to the state department of education, compared to 2017, the number of Georgia students who’s test showed they were proficient for the grade level or above proficiency for their grade level increased in 18 of the 26 assessments.

What is Milestones Testing?: Students began taking Georgia Milestones assessments in 2014-15. The testing system is one comprehensive program across grades 3 through 12, which includes open-ended questions to better gauge students’ content mastery.

How it works: Student test scores are grouped into four categories; beginning, developing, proficient and distinguished. Beginning learners are performing below grade level in the subject and will need extensive assistance to succeed in the next grade level. Developing learners are also not performing at grade level, but show partial proficiency. Proficient learners are performing at grade level and distinguished learners are performing above their grade level.

The numbers: Now that you know what each category is, let’s set aside the 2017 comparisons and dive into the numbers in some key subjects and grade levels. In third grade reading, 63 percent of Georgia students are not performing at grade level. In fourth and fifth grade reading, 59 percent of Georgia students are performing below grade level.

By ninth grade English, when students are learning literature and composition, 52 percent of Georgia students are performing at or above grade level. But, in 10th grade when students are learning American Lit., 52 percent are performing below grade level.

In math, the majority of Georgia elementary school students perform below grade level. By the time they are in 5th grade, 62 percent of students are performing below grade level. In high school, 62 percent of Algebra I students perform below grade level, as do 61 percent of high school students taking Geometry.

In U.S. History, 53 percent of students are below grade level. Georgia students do a little better in economics, with 50 percent performing below grade level and 49 percent performing at or above grade level. Now is a good time to note that according to the department of education, the totals don’t always add up to 100 percent due to rounding.

The Spin: State School Superintendent Richard Woods had the following to say about the statewide Milestones results. 

“We are seeing significant improvements in student performance year over year. In almost every subject area, there are more students achieving the proficient and distinguished performance levels. We’re beginning to see the impact of our efforts to expand opportunities for students – not focusing solely on the tested areas but genuinely providing a well-rounded education. Some of the areas we’ve focused heavily on, like fine arts and career education, aren’t directly tested on Georgia Milestones but they have an enormous effect on students’ ability to achieve academically and their overall engagement in their education. We’re starting to see the results of that more holistic approach.”

Too Much Testing?: Woods goes on to say he supports a reduction in overall standardized testing, echoing the views of many parents throughout the state, that students are taking too many standardized tests.

“I continue to support a reduction of standardized testing to get Georgia in line with the federal minimum. Making this a reality will require a change in state law, and I will push for this change in the upcoming legislative session,” Woods said.

Georgia law currently requires more testing than the federal requirements. Georgia requires a comprehensive summative assessment program in grades 3 through 12, including End of Grade assessments in English/Language Arts and math for grades 3 through 8, End of Grade assessments in science and social studies for grades 5 and 8, and End of Course assessments in designated core subjects for grades 9 through 12. Those subjects are: 9th grade Literature and Composition, American Literature and Composition, Algebra I or Coordinate Algebra, Geometry or Analytic Geometry, Biology, Physical Science, U.S. History, and Economics.

This exceeds the federal requirement to test students yearly in grades 3 through 8, and at least once in high school, in math and reading or language arts; and at least once per grade band (3-5, 6-9, and 10-12) in science.