June 4, 2014 – The Georgia Department of Education will implement a new testing system, the Georgia Milestones Assessment System (Georgia Milestones) during the 2014-2015 academic year. The new system will replace both the CRCT and the EOCT.
Georgia Milestones will be aligned to the Common Core Georgia Performance Standards (CCGPS) and will require more from students than the CRCT and EOCT it replaces, in order to better prepare students for college and career and to provide a more realistic picture of academic progress. 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.
The increased expectations for student learning reflected in Georgia Milestones may mean initially lower scores than the previous years’ CRCT or EOCT scores. That is to be expected and should bring Georgia’s tests in line with other indicators of how our students are performing, State School Superintendent Dr. John Barge said.
“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,” Dr. Barge said.
The new testing system will include open-ended questions to better gauge students’ content mastery. With some exceptions for special education students with specific testing accommodations, Georgia Milestones will be administered entirely online by the fifth year of implementation, compared to 35 percent online administration of the EOCT in 2013-2014.
When I first read this news release, I started thinking “more changes to manage” as well as the urgency to make sure students are writing across the school in every classroom frequently. I do agree this is positive change and we knew it was coming!
All teachers will have to understand why its important for students to explain concepts in writing (also blogging) daily and including more open-ended questions on assessments. As Georgia moves to implement this new testing system, assessments must be aligned to the new format so students can get accustomed to providing answers in writing. I’ve always believed if students can explain answers verbally, in writing and using a diagram of some kind, they know it. But all three assessments have to be used. The problem in many classrooms is most assessments are not in this format. Most assessments are multiple choice or true and false format.
Some teachers will be reluctant and argue they are not trained to teach students writing skills-I’m not an English Teacher! How will schools handle this situation? Two options come to mind. One strategy is peer review. Students review each others writing (and blogging) providing feedback to each other. Teachers can provide exemplars as a model of good writing for students to emulate. No matter what strategy is used, teachers will have to be trained and encouraged to teach writing. I would encourage teachers to have students writing both the old fashion way and blogging.
Another option is using software students can use to provide feedback on their writing. Advantages of grading software is consistent feedback across the school and it saves teachers time. As most educators know, with all the expectations or demands on teacher’s time is a commodity! Teachers will still need to make sure writing assignments are included in lesson plans and follow through with it. As with any new software, the teachers will have to be trained how to use it. Another positive most programs have a reports feature to help monitor use and progress.
Common planning time can and should be utilized so teachers can sit down together discussing student writing progress and planning the next weeks instruction. Writing should be included as part of the meeting agenda to ensure its discussed and planned. The common planning agenda can also be used to document implementation and student progress.