Test scores are in. The Georgia Department of Education released the results of the 2019 Georgia Milestones assessment Friday. The department says students recorded the strongest-ever overall gains on the test since it began in 2015. The biggest jumps were seen in ninth-grade literature, sixth grade English/Language Arts (ELA), third-grade math and third grade ELA.
“While these gains are worth celebrating, we cannot be all about the test – our job is to prepare students for life,” said State Schools Superintendent Richard Woods in a press release. “I continue to support a reduction of state assessment requirements to the federal minimum, and more realistic and reasonable accountability requirements.”
In metro Atlanta, several districts found points of pride in the data. 90 percent of Cobb County schools improved over three years. 63 percent of DeKalb County students are reading on grade level. Fulton County’s third-grade scores improved six percent. Clayton County Public Schools says students in grades 3-8 improved in most subjects.
In Atlanta Public Schools, 80 percent of elementary and middle schools and 76 percent of high schools improved their scores.
“I am absolutely celebrating our gains; I’m very proud of our team,” said Superintendent Meria Carstarphen. “Where I struggle still, and I know we all are struggling, is improving the proficiency rate for the students.”
Georgia Milestones breaks scores down into four achievement levels: Beginning Learner (Level 1); Developing Learner (Level 2); Proficient Learner (Level 3); and Distinguished Learner (Level 4). This is the first year Georgia Milestones was administered 100 percent online.
APS did show some strong gains in proficiency. In third grade math, for example, 45 percent of students tested proficient or distinguished. That’s a 6.5 percent improvement from 2018. But overall, Carstarphen would like to see more kids achieving in levels 3 and 4.
“The proficiency itself simply isn’t high enough for enough kids, especially black kids, brown kids, poor kids for us to know we have enough rigor in our work for kids to be really prepared for college or careers or being able to go into the workforce with the kind of education they need and deserve,” she said.
Carstarphen has been superintendent for five years. She’s implemented some ambitious programs. She’s merged some schools, closed others and rolled out a turnaround strategy at some schools in impoverished neighborhoods that need extra resources and help. Her plans have gained support and drawn criticism. That might be why she’s reluctant to take too much credit for the increase in test scores.
“I accept both,” she said. “I try to own that we put some bold strategies in place. I’m proud to lead them. At the same time, I will own that it hasn’t always been perfect. We could’ve done a better job in engagement. We could have worked faster or slowed down on some other things, but I feel like [we have] done the work.”