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Georgia Milestones: A guide to understanding test scores
Results will be released Monday
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After a year of complex, contested and, at times, confusing testing, the scores from the first year of Georgia Milestones will be released Monday.

The state Department of Education wants the public to know Milestones are not comparable to previous state testing, including the replaced Criterion Referenced Competency Tests, or the CRCT.

But what will the results mean?

Hall County Superintendent Will Schofield said he understands any parents who are confused or overwhelmed by the scores.

“I think they’ll have a lot of company throughout the state, as we have reshuffled everything,” Schofield said.

To understand the school, district and student results, there are four categories to learn. The state is calling these “achievement levels.”

  • Beginning learners: According to the state, “beginning learners” do not show proficiency, based on grade-level standards, and need substantial support to be ready for the next grade level.
  • Developing learners: These students show “partial proficiency” based on the state standards, and they need some additional support to succeed at the next grade level.
  • Proficient learners: As the title implies, these students show proficiency in the tested content and are ready for the next grade level.
  • Distinguished learners: Those who showed “advanced proficiency” and are also ready for the next grade level.

Each achievement level is based on standards at a certain grade level. So a third-grader is not necessarily a “beginning learner,” nor is a 12th-grader always a “distinguished learner,” just because of their ages.

District- and school-level scores will be released Monday, and in the days that follow, parents and students will receive individual student reports.

Schofield said he has a general idea of how his schools performed.

“As a bit of a preview, I can say we’re not at all surprised that our schools full of poverty youngsters who don’t speak the English language really took a beating on this test,” Schofield said. “By the time we’ve had those kids a few years and they get into middle school, their scores look pretty decent again compared to the rest of the state.”

While school- and district-level reports will show how many students are “proficient learners” or above, individual student results will include a bit more.

Gainesville City Schools have prepared a letter to go home with these reports, according to Superintendent Wanda Creel.

“Those reports for students are very extensive,” Creel said at a November school board meeting. “Our letter is trying to help our parents understand a very complex issue.”

Those students who chose not to take the test last year will receive paperwork that indicates “present, test not attempted,” and scores for the school, district and state.

Student reports will share achievement levels, national percentile ranking per subject, and the English-language arts results will provide a Lexile measure.

The Lexile Framework is used nationally to measure children’s reading levels. The Milestones will provide the child’s Lexile score and some suggested reading material based on the score.

For every subject, students will also receive a “scale score” alongside the achievement level. Unlike the CRCT, the scale may vary by student and subject.

But, students will also receive a “grade conversion score” or a score on a scale of 1-100, just like an average classroom test score.

Beginning this school year, the Milestones will be used to determine if a child can progress to the next grade level, and the grade conversion scores will count as 20 percent of the final subject grade.

The purpose, school officials say, is to raise the number of Georgia students who are proficient in all subjects and to aid those who are not.

“Our previous assessment, the CRCT, set some of the lowest expectations for student proficiency in the nation, and that cannot continue,” said state Superintendent Richard Woods. “Georgia Milestones sets higher standards for our students and evens the playing field with the rest of the nation — and that’s essential if our students are going to succeed in college and their chosen careers, both of which are nationally competitive arenas. We will continue to increase our supports for both students and teachers to ensure this test is more meaningful for all involved.”