The Georgia Department of Education has released system- and schoolwide results for the annual Georgia Milestones Assessment System, and, as has been the trend in the first two administrations of the exams, Forsyth County both increased and remains atop the vast majority of the state.
This was the third year Georgia students took Milestones exams, a comprehensive program across grades 3-12 that serve as the statewide accountability system. Tests include open-ended questions, a writing component and norm-referenced items and replaced the CRCT and EOCT programs that were previously administered.
“We’re definitely at the top of the state again,” said Beth Kieffer, assessment and accountability director for Forsyth County Schools. “For school systems with over 600 students in a test group, we were pretty much the No. 1 in every assessment.”
Beginning in third grade, elementary and middle school students take end of grade assessments in English language arts and mathematics, and students in grades 5 and 8 are also assessed in science and social studies.
High school students take end of course assessments for each of the 10 courses designated by the state Board of Education.
District officials are still weeding through the myriad numbers and results that were released Thursday, but Kieffer said she feels good about the preliminary indications.
“In general, I feel like we did better [than last year],” she said. “We have other systems calling us and asking us how we did so well, and it’s a credit to the teachers and the students.”
Elementary and middle school
Students are scored along four achievement levels: beginning, developing, proficient and distinguished learners. Developing, proficient and distinguished are considered passing.
Though the state allowed systems to waive the rule of using results in third, fifth and eighth grade to determine whether a student can continue to the next grade, Kieffer said Forsyth County chose not to waive the policy.
As a system, students taking end of grade exams scored either No. 1 overall or No. 1 among large school systems – more than 600 test takers – for every subject in grades 3, 5 and 8, except for science.
Kieffer said only 15 students in the district took that science exam because all other students took the end of course physical science exam. Those students were only outperformed among large districts by Cobb County Schools. They scored fourth overall.
Students taking grade 3 and 5 math and grade 8 English language arts and social students earned the highest mean scale score in the state.
Many individual schools performed at the highest level, too.
Big Creek Elementary School’s total mean scale score in grade 3 math was the highest in the state, as was Daves Creek Elementary School in grade 5 math.
Riverwatch Middle School was No. 1 in the state in grade 8 math and social studies.
High school test takers scored atop all other large districts in ninth grade American literature and composition, algebra 1, American literature and composition, biology, economics and U.S. history.
More than 90 percent of students passed every subject, except for physical science’s passing rate of 87.7.
On a school level, Lambert High School students scored, as a total, above the rest, earning scores in the top 10 in American literature and composition (8) and U.S. history (7).
Lambert marked the top score among any school in the state in economics. South Forsyth High was 10th, West Forsyth High was 12th, North Forsyth High was 16th and Forsyth Central was 64th.
The percentage of students across Georgia achieving at the proficient learner level and above increased or held steady on 18 of 26 assessments. Where scores decreased, they did so by three percentage points or less.
“Seeing scores increase in areas like third grade ELA and math, while also seeing large jumps in subjects like American literature, affirms that we’re on the right path as we focus on foundational skills and early literacy and numeracy, both of which equip students for success in the later grades,” State School Superintendent Richard Woods said.
The Milestones did not come without controversy, as the higher bar of the exams resulted in lower test scores its first year. Officials have said the program is more rigorous and gives a better indication of college- and career-readiness.
“Three years ago, we asked our teachers and students to clear a much higher bar when Georgia introduced its new assessment system,” Woods said. “We are making progress, and that progress will continue as we refine our focus on the services and supports schools need to provide the best possible education for all students.”