As Georgia rolls out new Milestones and testing moves online, how is it going?

I am getting varied reports on the roll out of the state’s new online Georgia Milestones testing this week.

Here is what Tift County sent me:

Our students began testing today with all but two of our schools doing 100 percent online (those two schools are doing 30 percent online). We have gotten rave reviews from staff and students. They have loved not using the paper tests, worrying about eraser marks and keeping up with so many booklets.

Many districts moved from paper and pencil testing this week to new online assessments. How did that go?

Many districts moved from paper and pencil testing this week to new online assessments. How did that go?

But here is what a local teacher sent me:

Was just curious about the reason for the lack of coverage regarding the problems with yesterday’s statewide online assessments. There were statewide problems with the screen-reader application, which serves as an accommodation for special education students. The server crashed, and students stared at lagging and frozen screens, sometimes for hours, before the state finally advised school systems to end the session for those affected students. After a year of preparation, this was an epic failure on the state’s part, and yet the media has been relatively silent.

The anti-testing movement, which is strongest in New York, is also surfacing in Georgia where there are more reports of parents opting their kids out the Milestones tests. However, as the AJC noted in its long piece on the opt-out movement, true numbers are hard to come by because no one maintains an official tally in Georgia.

My twins are in intense testing mode but not due to Georgia Milestones; they are among the high schoolers in the state prepping to take the College Board’s AP exams, which they and their school take seriously. There is no opt-out movement around AP tests, which I assume is because parents believe there’s value in them and because kids can get college credit if they score high enough. Also, selective colleges expect students to show at least four AP classes on their high school transcripts so it may be parents feel there is no choice.

Here is an AJC summary of the new Georgia Milestones exams:

>Created to align with Common Core standards Georgia adopted in 2010, it replaces the Criterion-Referenced Competency Test for grades 3-8 and the End of Course Tests for middle and high school students.

>It contains more open-ended questions and a writing component and measures a student’s performance relative to other students, rather than being criterion-referenced, which measures mastery of academic material.

>Georgia plans to have all students take the Milestones exam online by its fifth year.

>CTB/McGraw-Hill won a $107.8 million, five-year contract to develop the tests.

>Milestones test scores will not be used to promote students or assess teachers in the test’s first year.

>The state expects students’ initial scores to be lower than on past assessments and will use them to calculate growth and work with teachers, said Melissa Fincher,  Georgia Department of Education deputy superintendent of assessment and accountability.

>Students taking the Milestones test will spend the same number of days but slightly less time each day than with the CRCT.

Reader Comments 0

77 comments
jerryeads
jerryeads

Technology isn't a matter of voting, schools23. And even so, it's not a "minority opinion" among those trained in measurement and who have experience in test development (and aren't on the receiving end of the incredible profits realized by low-bid assembly line mass test development). Sloppy and cheap low bid item writing and editing is still sloppy and cheap low bid item writing and editing.

State agencies, by the way, don't fare well in attracting people who actually know what they're doing. I was incredibly fortunate to have two of my fifteen state staff with measurement doctorates. Most of the very few with that background either head for the universities or the testing sweat shops. Georgia DOE had one of the best I've ever known until they "missed" one year with the social studies test and a particularly incompetent bureaucrat canned him. Best thing that ever happened for him.

We might note that we've been doing this sort of "accountability" for around fifty years - since the rise in popularity of using latent trait item statistical analysis for mass testing after Fred Lord of ETS and Georg Rasch of Denmark (and others) pioneered the approach in the fifties and sixties. While this statistical approach for test construction is of enormous benefit, blindly following the statistics is just as bad in test development as it is in research. It is well documented beyond informed doubt that we haven't realized any significant gains in "achievement" (i.e., test scores, not necessarily having anything to do with actual learning) for all our efforts. Do I agree with current accountability approaches? Absolutely not. Do I think we should know where we are AND THEN ACTUALLY DO SOMETHING WITH THAT INFORMATION to try to improve learning and hence (we hope) improve society? Absolutely. "The beatings will continue until morale improves" doesn't work for ditch digging OR the incredibly complex art and science of teaching.


hssped, I suggest you get in touch with the "opt out" folks - simply type in "how to opt out of testing in Georgia" and discuss the issue with the various organizations that list to see if such a choice is right for you and your children.

jerryeads
jerryeads

Have a research/measurement Ph.D. Was in the testing biz for fifteen years. Ran the state's testing program in Virginia a while back. Schools23, state tests are horribly made, low bid, inaccurate junk. The smartest thing parents COULD do is have their kids opt out. Parents who continue to let their kids take these tests either don't care, are too scared, or don't have any "common sense."

There IS good testing. There ARE good tests. There are good USES for testing. This isn't it.

hssped
hssped

@jerryeads

How do high school kids opt out?  I know that some will get a medical waiver.  What do the rest have to do?  What will show on their transcript? 

Schools23
Schools23

@jerryeads 

Your opinion is a minority one, both among experts and among parents. And you probably are among the partisans opposing school accountability and parental choice. 

DrMonicaHenson
DrMonicaHenson

@hssped @jerryeads Any student that "opts out" of testing is subject to the local district/charter board graduation requirements. In our school's case, the student would be assessed a zero for not taking the test. If s/he can pass the course otherwise, with the zero factored in as 20% of the course grade, credit is awarded. There is no "medical waiver" to escape State accountability in any public school. All public school students in Georgia are required to participate in State testing. The State or district cannot compel the students to take the test, and the local district cannot waive the test when a student opts out. That leaves the zero-for-the-test-grade solution.

ProHumanitate
ProHumanitate

This is a repeat comment. Getting paid for it?

Parents need no help from a newspaper blog to reach their own conclusions and decisions.

4PublicEducation
4PublicEducation

"CTB/McGraw-Hill won a $107.8 million, five-year contract to develop the tests." Follow the money and it is the answer to most political questions.  These guys have lobbyists; parents, kids and teachers do not.  Politicians make teachers the scapegoat and say the tests are necessary to hold teachers accountable.  And every couple of years, here comes a new test costing millions of dollars.  This time it is a commercial publisher, but sometimes it is a university who pays in-house researchers to write the expensive tests.  People who push testing and want to come up with new tests all the time are making money on it some way.  The ITBS is a pretty good test; we have used it for years,  and it is actually valid, but no one would make millions of dollars by choosing it, so it is imperative that a new test be written.  Teachers and parents need to speak up against this privatization of public education. This money in no way advances the education of your children.

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

@Apple4 

Gee, yet another alias of "EdUktr"? The style as well as the message is so familiar!  Just getting new IP addresses all the time won't do it.

OriginalWaitress_
OriginalWaitress_

@OriginalProf

You would prefer some of Maureen's liberal assertions be immune to comment. In a state where non-liberals are a majority.

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

@OriginalWaitress_ @OriginalProf 

You are off-topic in commenting about the blog. She's warned us all that off-topic posts and name-calling would cause posters to be banned, and specifically warned "EdUktr" about this. 

popacorn
popacorn

@OriginalProf @popacorn Ummmm. No, they can't. Your internet service provider does that. How else do you think Maureen knows all when someone simply changes their screen name? 16th century common sense. 

popacorn
popacorn

@OriginalProf

Lodging complaint: She called me a dog. Banishment, to a present day K-12 classroom in APS, please. 

heyteacher
heyteacher

@OriginalProf @popacorn 

GM  was at least mildly entertaining in a train wreck sort of way but this Ed guy just copies and pastes the same argument over and over again. Yawn.

popacorn
popacorn

You seem to be right in the middle of all the banning around here. Follow your nose. 

MaureenDowney
MaureenDowney moderator

@heyteacher @OriginalProf @popacorn Good mother also keeps coming back -- she has been every gender and lived in nearly every metro system. I give her high marks for spinning compelling narratives with each new incarnation and screen name.

MaureenDowney
MaureenDowney moderator

@popacorn Here's the secret to not being banned. Don't be the first person on every blog -- literally two seconds after I post -- with the same tired comment that serves only to discourage serious discussion. My job is to encourage people to read the blog. The banned posters have the opposite goal: deter readers. 

You would be surprised how many people I meet who tell me that they don't comment because of certain posters hijacking the discussion. 

I have lost all patience with that. 


popacorn
popacorn

Look on the bright side. This year everyone can say, 'It's not the students' or the teachers' fault', and live to flail another year. 

SethMoore
SethMoore

Maureen...I think the parents of every special education student who took the Milestones on the computer need to BOMBARD the state with complaints.  I am a teacher who administered the test on computer.  Our students had several major disadvantages compared to those students who took the test on paper.  During the portions of the test that required writing, students taking the test in the booklet were given the visual prompt of lined paper - they kind of had an idea how long their responses should be.  Some questions only required a page worth of writing, while others had multiple pages of lines in which they could write their answers.  These are visual prompts.  Students taking the test on the computer had no such visuals and thus had no idea or approximation how long their answers should be.  This is a complete disadvantage to our students in special education.  Also, during the 5th grade science test, there were math questions.  Granted, they were relatively simple and students could be able to figure them out in their head.  BUT, scratch paper was NOT ALLOWED for those students taking the online test.  So they were forced to figure out these questions in their head...going against EVERYTHING we've ever taught them (i.e. write the problems down).  Students taking the test on paper could have solved these problems in their booklet.

Apple3
Apple3

@SethMoore

We all vividly recall your outrage at the computer glitches which accompanied the rollout to Obamacare and its continuing problems.

EdumacateThat
EdumacateThat

@Apple3 @SethMoore What does that have to do with the topic at hand?  SethMoore has stated some valid criticism of the current Milestone rollout.

Apple4
Apple4

@Wascatlady 

Not counting taxpayers forced to massively subsidize it? 

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@SethMoore And we can make a very long list of those here in Georgia who have been selected to run things with NO experience in the area, can't we?

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@SethMoore I am willing to bet that virtually NONE of those designing the test have ever GIVEN a test like this, and they will be absolutely MYSTIFIED by the points you make.  Just as an earlier poster mentioning that kids had to keep scrolling up and down to compare two passages, and these were 5th graders!


To show you lack of thinking through due to lack of experience:  For a few years, the head of RTI in the county was a great former teacher, who had always taught THE MOST ADVANCED HIGH SCHOOL MATH.  He had never worked with a child who was significantly behind academically.  He even, at one point, insisted that the ELL kids be given the work in Spanish for the RTI process, ALTHOUGH 95% OF THEM HAVE NEVER HAD INSTRUCTION IN READING SPANISH (having always gone to school in Georgia)!


People without experience in the area in question should NOT be in charge of running it!

anothercomment
anothercomment

@Wascatlady I went to college with the ambassador from Columbia's daughter in the late 70's. She had lived in McLain, Va with her family down the street from Ted Kennedy and Ethel Kennedy and the kids, since she was 2. She was failing college Spanish class. While she could speak fluent, she was illiterate. She had to swap tutoring with a guy who was from Puerto Rico for Math tutoring. Can you imagine this was a highly educated government official from the upper class of South America, not a lower class family. We used to joke about it in college. People who are native speakers don't general teach their children how to read and write in those languages, just communicate with Mommy and Daddy.

taylor48
taylor48

Tuesday, they had to suspend the testing for the SPED kids because of huge glitches.  Students were logging in, getting kicked back out, and then were told the test was completed when they tried to log in again.  They were able to make up Tuesday's testing today.  It was taking a long time for students to log in, but the teachers discovered that if they waited for about five minutes after log in, even if it seemed the computer was frozen, eventually it would work out.  Our regular ed kids took it paper and pencil, so I can't imagine what will happen when it's time for all of them to test.  Not sure how the timing will work either.  We can accommodate about four classes in our labs, so it will take us a good two weeks to complete all of the testing for 3rd, 4th, and 5th grades, especially when some of the tests are lasting 3 hours or so.  The state definitely needs to upgrade their server capacity before they have everyone taking these on the computers.  Thankfully, they don't count for anything, but it's still pretty stressful for the kids.

HollyJones
HollyJones

@taylor48 Both my kids' schools (elementary and middle) were in testing mode for almost 3 weeks in order to accommodate the computer testing.  I don't know that any students tested on paper, but perhaps some special ed kids did.  The total upheaval in the daily schedule was insane.  When the test were on paper, they were all given in the morning and only slight adjustments to the schedule were needed.  The middle school seemed to handle it slightly better, but they have more computers between labs and laptops.  The elementary school was topsy-turvy for everyone, even the grades that weren't testing.  

MaureenDowney
MaureenDowney moderator

To all,

How are the SLOs going? Kids have been reporting to me inconsistencies across electives. Some SLOs are a breeze, while others are grueling.

ScienceTeacher671
ScienceTeacher671

@MaureenDowney We're not giving SLOs yet, but since the teachers who teach those classes created them in our district, and knew they'd be evaluated using the results, I expect that there will be "growth" shown...


We did point out that few, if any, of us had any experience in creating standarized tests, much less making sure they were valid, etc.

Quidocetdiscit
Quidocetdiscit

Some interesting glitches with our testing.  Log-in that did not work requiring restarting and re-logging in, sometimes numerous times.  Random freezing and shut downs.  Weird experiences with the various tools, some of which could affect scores.  Practice questions that did not show up at the beginning of the test, but rather at the end. Read aloud functions that stuttered, froze up or sounded like someone speaking in slow motion.  Scroll bars that did not scroll.  Difficulty navigating through the tests due to missing navigational keys for some students and inoperative ones for others.  Students expressed frustration about not being able to "write" on some portions were they wanted to jot down ideas or numbers or manipulate the screen.  Only some sections allowed for paper and pencil.  At least with CRCT they could write in the test booklets if they wanted. They also complained about the highlighter which wasn't exactly user friendly.  If they highlighted one passage, the color showed up on other passages unless they erased it.  They also had trouble shifting back and forth between passages as they sometimes had to compare two written pieces but could only see one at a time.  Hard for anyone to deal with, let alone an elementary student. 


We managed, but I would not call it a smooth operation. Certainly it was frustrating for students, teachers and administrators. I guess you could call it a "learning experience." As with any roll out of new tech,  I expected a few issues, so wasn't really surprised. Hopefully they will work out the glitches before this test starts to "count".  



hssped
hssped

I know the 9th grade math teachers aren't too happy because they've found out that the online calc will be a TI-84 which the kids are not accustomed to using.  Why didn't the milestone people let the schools know at the start of the year? Then the teachers could have added graphing calcs to their supply list.  This week there has been a mad dash to familiarize the kids with the functionality of the 84.   Couldn't tell anyone before hand? Last minute ugly surprise? 


Opting-out?  I'm not sure that is an option at the high school level (unless it is a med waiver).  Does anyone know for sure?

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

Haha!  I am under the impression that it is the highly conservative that are opting out!

popacorn
popacorn

Really? A few kinks in the debut of Computer Testing? Who could have imagined? Keep kicking and screaming and whining as you're dragged into the 21st Century. 

JBBrown1968
JBBrown1968

@popacorn


I bet these people wish you would find a plumbing blog....YOU'RE full of crap! YOU'RE so smart,you should be two people.

popacorn
popacorn

@JBBrown1968

And to think I was so proud of your use of 'you're' in the first post above. Then you come back and screw it up yet again. Sigh. I can tell you're trying. Talk to your new BFF, 'Prof'. She can show you how to look everything up on Wikipedia and Google, and copy and paste from there. 

popacorn
popacorn

@Quidocetdiscit

Trust me, the computer tech folks are fully aware of all the prototypical problems that have popped up. By now they have a printed list of every single keystroke by every student and any resulting problems. The last thing they need is a bunch of educators jumping up and down about the data that the experts are analyzing as we speak. You've got your 'out' this year. It's the computers fault!

Problem pointing or pity party?

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

@popacorn @JBBrown1968 

Name-calling of me, and I'm almost inclined to report it. I answered JBBrown once (to criticize you). Everyone who blogs uses Wiki and Google, and cuts and pastes; and I do too in addition to what I already know. Why waste time doing research for a blog? You don't even do that, but simply snipe away. 

There are some interesting recent scholarly studies of the psychology of trolls that you have inspired me to pursue...

popacorn
popacorn

@OriginalProf @popacorn @JBBrown1968

Please.Look it up on Wikipedia. BFF means 'best friend forever.' Spend any time at all around young people? 21st century expression. Welcome!

Wow, did I ever hit a nerve. And, just a tip, I wouldn't speak for everyone on this blog. About anything. 

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

@popacorn @OriginalProf @JBBrown1968 

I know sarcasm, as well as the meaning of "BFF"; and also I'm tired of your constant attacks on me as a scholar/Prof. It wasn't that you "hit a nerve"--I just got fed up.  And I'd remind you of the same thing: you don't speak for everyone here with your cynical, defeatist posts.

JBBrown1968
JBBrown1968

@popacorn @OriginalProf @JBBrown1968


I only post for trolls: Popacorn, Astropig, and Eudtr or whatever name he, or she is using. The rest of these people seem to have knowledge and experience. You guys seem to have a very strong anti-public education agenda and for some reason feel very superior. Bullies are the word that comes to mind.

Quidocetdiscit
Quidocetdiscit

@popacorn


Or maybe if we point out the problems now, they can fix them before they test starts to count against the students.  So you go ahead and call it "kicking, screaming and whining", I'll consider it being proactive.

Quidocetdiscit
Quidocetdiscit

@popacorn @Quidocetdiscit


Yes, because despite your comments about how educators "whine" all the time, we are focused on pointing out the problems so they can be resolved.  Your modus operandi seems to be to "whine" about how much we "whine".  

Quidocetdiscit
Quidocetdiscit

@popacorn 


You keep singing the same song... It is like you cannot even conceive of a public school that is doing a good job or a teacher who is competent and professional.  How sad to be so jaded.


I am not concerned about any "OUT" this year.  My district, my school and my students always do very well on these tests. That said, I fully expect scores to drop this year because the test was new and different, there were computer glitches,the test and questions have not been tested for validity yet, we were totally on computer (including typing in the essay portion for kids who do not know how to type - I had students finish writing their rough draft but run out of time before they could type it because they were hunting and pecking to type), and it was likely a tougher test.  I know that any drop in our scores will be echoed across the state.  If our students struggle, others will struggle much more!  


Honestly, I rather hope they grade these tests without a huge curve as they used to do with the CRCT.  As a teacher, it was frustrating to tell a parent all year that their child is struggling with curriculum, and then have them ace the CRCT because the cut off is set so low you could miss half the questions and still pass.  Then the parents think you are an idiot and that their child is doing just fine - when really, they are not. 


Low scores by schools that have previously shown outstanding achievement should send some messages.


1.  That there actually IS a bell curve of student achievement and not every child is "on grade level" or above, even in the "good schools."  Maybe when a teacher says your child is not on level, they really know what they are talking about.

2. That this test was much harder than the previous tests.

3. That there were computer issues.

4. That having younger elementary students have to type in full essays is silly.

5. That some students do not test well on computer screens. (My students who wore glasses complained of eye strain by the end of testing each day.) 

6. That Georgia needs to invest in their educational system.



Unfortunately, I suspect the "message" we will hear will be more along  the lines of, "Look!  We told you!  ALL public schools are apparently failing our children so QUICK  bring in the Charters, vouchers and parental choice options now!"



We have given up three weeks for this testing with classes, schedules and teaching time totally disrupted.  Teachers have rushed through material to get the full years curriculum covered five weeks ahead of time.  Add this to the time taken for other SLO tests in non academic subjects and the three times a year testing for Measures of Academic Progress, and our students are literally losing months of classroom instruction, not to mention loss of access to all the school computers for weeks on end.  


And you are okay with that?  


Why?  You can maybe catch some "bad" teachers? Or push your charter/voucher agenda and to heck with the students who are suffering because of all this?


Folks like to say that we have the testing BECAUSE too many teachers were passing students on who should not have been passed on - but actually, teachers were able to hold back MORE students prior to all this testing.... The testing has actually ham stringed us.


It has gotten to the point of insanity, and someone needs to put a stop to it.  It won't be the teachers, because, thanks to folks like you, when teachers speak up they are dismissed out of hand... regardless of the fact that they are the ones who best know what is happening and how it is affecting the classroom and their students.  So maybe it needs to be parents.  


Yes, testing is a fact of life - but this LEVEL of testing is totally absurd!