Fewer Georgia students score proficient on Milestones. DeKalb expects ‘greater achievement’ in future

As expected, far fewer Georgia students were deemed proficient under a new testing series rolled out in the 2014-2015 school year. The Georgia Milestones tests challenged many students, who found themselves deemed beginner learners, a euphemism for failing.

According to the AJC: (This article has a good primer on the Milestones.)

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s analysis of the performance of one group of students, for example, shows more struggling to meet basic standards than with the old tests the Milestones replaced: at least 97 percent of elementary schools with 10 or more students taking the third grade English test had a higher failure rate than the year before, the final time the Criterion-Referenced Competency Test (CRCT) was given.

“We have a lot of kids who are at the beginning level,” said Bill Caritj, the Atlanta Public Schools testing chief. “Beginning” means failing under the new grading system. The Georgia Department of Education released the scores Monday.

Students in districts with high poverty struggled the most. For instance, in DeKalb County 43.7 percent failed third grade English while in Atlanta Public Schools 41.3 percent failed. In other major metro districts — Cobb, Fulton and Gwinnett counties — about a quarter of that group failed.

DeKalb issued a statement on its performance. (See the response of the Atlanta Public Schools here.)

From DeKalb County School District:


The DeKalb County School District’s Georgia Milestones End-of-Course and End-of-Grade test scores highlight student progress in academic proficiency across the district.

In language arts, 29 elementary schools met or exceeded the state average in the percentage of students in 3rd, 4th, and 5th grades, scoring in the two highest categories, Proficient Learner and Distinguished Learner. There are 10 Title I elementary schools.

Likewise, 21 elementary schools met or exceeded state averages in the percentage of students in the highest scoring bands for mathematics.  On average, over 20 elementary schools scored in the highest bands of performance for both science and social studies.  There are 85 elementary schools in the district.

In school language arts, eight middle schools showed significant proficiency in the percentage of students in 6th, 7th, and 8th grades by scoring in the Proficient Learner or Distinguished Learner performance bands, either meeting or exceeding state averages. Four middle schools are designated for Title I. There are 19 middle schools in the district.

On average, 59 percent of students in the district scored within or above the scoring range for Lexile Levels, a scale for measuring the reading ability of a student.

Across the district, at least 30 percent of high school students completing the Ninth Grade Literature, U.S. History, and Economics Spring 2015 End-of-Course assessments scored in state’s highest performance categories, illustrating significant proficiency in the mastery of content standards. The district’s increase of 10.6 percentage points in high school graduation rates for School Years 2014 and 2015 also supports positive performance among our high school students.  There are 22 high schools in the district.

Schools exhibiting 80 percent or more of their students scoring in the highest performance levels in one or more content areas include:

–   Austin ES

–  Chamblee Charter HS

–   DeKalb School for the Arts

–   Kittredge Magnet

–  Vanderlyn ES

–   Wadsworth Magnet

“With this new, more rigorous test and first-time online testing for many students, we anticipated these scores, which will form a baseline for future years’ comparison,” said Superintendent R. Stephen Green. “Together with earlier improved results in SAT scores and graduation rates, our students are demonstrating significant important growth and we anticipate even greater achievement in the future with our laser focus on classroom instruction and curriculum.”

For those schools that need significant improvement, the district has undertaken the following initiatives to improve student academic outcomes:

•The Curriculum, Instruction, Assessment, and Accountability (CIA²) Task force is rebuilding the teaching and learning foundation to ensure that all students obtain rigorous instruction, in all classrooms, in all schools.

•Family & Community Engagement programs ensure parents are included and supported in their roles in the learning process. This includes parent workshops, training in the use of Academic Parent Teacher Teams, school events, regional Parent Centers, and the District’s pilot of a tool for online family engagement on demand (FAM-FLIX).

•Wrap-Around Services address the social-emotional impacts of the learning process including strategic use of Counselors, Social Workers, Student Engagement Coaches, Student Success Coaches, Post-Secondary Transition Specialists, and other critical positions to support students dealing with challenges that may impact their learning or matriculation toward graduation.

•Incentives and support are in place to recruit, hire, and retain highly effective teachers in schools that are considered more challenged. The district Effectiveness Team supports and monitors key performance indicators.  This team reports twice a month directly to Superintendent Green.

The Georgia Milestones Assessment System (Georgia Milestones) is a comprehensive summative assessment program spanning 3rd grade through high school.  Georgia Milestones measures how well students have learned the knowledge and skills outlined in the state-adopted content standards in language arts, mathematics, science, and social studies.  Students in 3rd – 8th grades take an end-of-grade assessment in each content area, while high school students take an end-of-course assessment for each of the eight courses designated by the State Board of Education. From lowest to highest, student scores on this new assessment place students into the following performance levels: Beginning Learner, Developing Learner, Proficient Learner, and Distinguished Learner.

The Georgia DOE will offer credit toward the 2015 College and Career Ready Performance Index (CCRPI) scores for all students scoring in the Developing Learners, Proficient Learners, and Distinguished Learners performance levels.  Developing Learners are learners that typically require moderate academic intervention to advance to Proficient Learner. On average, 30-35 percent of students in DeKalb County scored in the Developing Learner performance level, indicating that these students only require moderate academic intervention to become a Proficient Learner and that significant academic progress is achievable.



Reader Comments 0


Let's see... This is DeKalb's fifth or sixth plan for improvement under it's fifth or sixth superintendent in a decade.  Dr. Lewis brought us "Premier DeKalb" and the Blue Ribbon Task Force. Johnny Brown implemented uniforms for all and Algebra in 8th grade. Ramona Tyson brought us the Charrettes and the emergency plan for improvement called "Triage" (starring Morcease Beasley and others still in charge), Cheryl Atkinson had the multi-million dollar "Success for All" (now her employer). We've been promised improvements over the years from programs like "Springboard" "America's Choice" "Race To The Top" (Beasley again) and others. And yet, substantial improvements continue to elude us.  A betting person would put money on Green's retirement happening long before much, if any improvement can be measured for students in DeKalb.


Thx bkendall.  I AM surprised the cut scores were changed in 2014. How do we know that? VERY interesting. And yes, NAEP has always written tests to its own drummer - and given your arguments I can see I'm going to have to go revisit NAEP methodology.


And the dumbing down of America continues!


Read the AJC article, and unless the AJC ignored Dana Rickman who is billed as a researcher with the Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education (GPEE), or failed to ask the right questions; I do better research and I am only a hobbyist.

There are several key pieces of misinformation, and missing information from the information provided in the linked article and here:

One, NAEP Mapping articles as published by the AJC and most likely every main media outlet in the country was wrong, as published. If you read the report and follow the instructions, (key point the follow instructions) and not just skim through to see where Georgia was ranked you will know why. Think, “Critical Reading Skills.”

Two, NAEP Mapping is only an estimate of where they mathematically guess using flawed data as to where Georgia test standards in 2013 would map onto a 500 point scale.

Three, NAEP and any state standards could be mapped, but only as a percent of a perfect score. However, see four!

Four, What NAEP tests, and what Georgia and most states teach and test were not a direct Apples-to-Apples comparison in 2013. NAEP Framework, and Georgia Academic Standards in 2013 and 2015 were not totally aligned.There were some similarities.

Five, In May of 2014, 44 of 60 test standards for the CRCT were lowered; inflating the 2014 passing rate.

Six, test standards are Cut Scores, not Performance Levels.

I could go on, but if GADOE would show the test standards, not just performance level results, they would illuminate the picture.


From what I understand, the state's Milestones tests are not just "more difficult" - which would simply involve slightly harder questions (of the same type) and/or requiring more questions to be answered in order to "pass."  The tests - in spite of endless ranting by mindless knee-jerking Tea Partyers - supposedly reflect the shift by the Common Core away from the sitdownshutupandcounttoahundred factoid memorization tests of yore that drove endless worksheet boredom and toward at least an attempt at such things as analysis and critique. THINKING, if you will. Kids still have to learn things but now might be encouraged to learn how to use said knowledge.

The biggest problem, of course, is that teachers - for half a century - have been driven to minimum competency instruction, and now face the very difficult task of shifting to a kind of teaching many will find very difficult indeed. This will take time. I hope that the DOE can help the media - and hence the citizens of the state - begin to understand that the tests might not just be harder, but DIFFERENT.  I still have enormous reservations about the minimum competency approach with egregiously arbitrarily and capriciously set "cut scores" that have NEVER been demonstrated to mean anything at all about future success in school or life. But at least the folks downtown are making an attempt to move away from the negligence of the past.


Just an FYI, the scores released yesterday reflect only the Spring test administration.  The scores of students who took the EOC the Winter of 2014 test cycle (i.e, those students on "block" scheduling) are not reflected in the data released this week.  The winter 2014 scores may well have an impact on the overall scores of a school. 


Gosh, it sure would be nice to be able to compare our scores to other states scores. Oh well.


Turns out I'm wrong.  Some of the other states which signed on for the common test are playing with their scores. 


Sounds like they employ a lot of chiefs!


"Incentives and support are in place to recruit, hire, and retain highly effective teachers in schools that are considered more challenged."


Steve Green really needs to get out of the Palace and go talk to his Principals and APs.   If he would bother to do that, he would quickly learn that Dekalb has no such "incentives and support".