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June 12, 2014

Testing changes on the horizon for new school year

MILLEDGEVILLE — The 2014-2015 school year will bring testing changes.

A new, more rigorous testing system is coming to Georgia public schools and will replace the Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests (CRCT) and End of Course Tests (EOCT).

The Georgia Department of Education announced last Wednesday that the new testing system, Georgia Milestones Assessment System (Georgia Milestones), is set to be implemented during the 2014-2015 academic year.

In late May, the DOE awarded a five-year, $107.58 million contract to CTB/McGraw-Hill to develop the new system.

Georgia Milestones will be aligned to the Common Core Georgia Performance Standards (CCGPS).  

The main objective of the new testing system is to require more from students than the CRCT and EOCT it replaces, in order to better prepare students for college and career learning institutions, according to state education leaders.

“It is a much more difficult test than the current CRCT and EOCT,” said Matt Cardoza, spokesman for the state department of education in a press release. "The new tests will require students to show and write out answers to questions, where the old tests were only multiple-choice. ”

The new testing system will include open-ended questions to better gauge students' content mastery.

Another major change that Georgia Milestones will bring is more consistency among grade levels.  

"A major benefit of the new system is that it is one consistent testing program across grades 3-12, whereas previously students took a series of individual tests," state school Superintendent John Barge said in a press release.

The CRCT is only given to students in grades three through eight while EOCT testing is administered in high schools.

Georgia Milestones will cover four content areas: math, science, social studies and English/language arts. The CRCT tests included reading as a fifth assessment, but school officials said reading will be incorporated into the English/language arts assessment in the Georgia Milestones testing system.

With some exceptions for special education students with specific testing accommodations, Georgia Milestones will be administered entirely online by the fifth year of implementation.

“We need to know that students are being prepared, not at a minimum-competency level but with rigorous, relevant education, to enter college, the workforce or the military at a level that makes them competitive with students from other states,” Barge said.

The increased expectations for student learning reflected in Georgia Milestones may mean initially lower scores than the previous years' CRCT or EOCT scores, say state officials, but it is expected to bring Georgia's tests in line with other indicators of how students are performing.

The new testing system will call for adjustments to be made in the Baldwin County School District.

According to Superintendent Geneva Braziel, although writing instruction begins in Grade 3 typing is not taught until students reach the fifth grade.

“We are going to have to start introducing students to typing earlier, especially since the tests will be entirely online by the fifth year,” she said.

Georgia Milestones testing is expected to begin by spring of the 2014-2015 school year.

In addition to the new Georgia Milestones testing system, students in classes that do not require CRCT or EOCT testing will be required to take Student Learning Objective (SLO) tests.

SLO assessment is a result of a new evaluation system called the Teacher Keys Effectiveness System, which places a higher percentage of weight upon student achievement.

Each district is required to create SLO tests for each course, which are to be approved and implemented by the beginning of the 2014-2015 school year.

According to Dr. Sharon Simmons, assistant superintendent, the Baldwin County school district has 140 courses that are considered SLO courses.

In the beginning of May, local educators and a state appointed evaluations system specialist met at the Baldwin County Board of Education to began work on creating the SLO assessments.

According to Carol Goings, instructional specialist, tests are still in the process of being uploaded into the state's system and are awaiting approval.

 

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