Should Milestones tests be treated as a practice round? Or, is it too late to retreat?

Should scores from the 2015-2016 End of Course Milestones high school tests — many of which are still not back to schools — count toward student grades?

Or should this tumultuous year be viewed as a practice round?

Georgia administers EOCs in 10 high school classes. The state requires these tests — which are neither created nor graded by classroom teachers — to count for 20 percent of a student’s final course grade. The courses are Ninth Grade Literature & Composition, Analytic Geometry, United States History, American Literature & Composition, Geometry, Economics, Algebra I, Biology, Coordinate Algebra and Physical Science.

The 2014-2015 school year marked the rollout of the new Milestones EOCs, so scores did not count in student grades. The scores do count this year despite computer glitches in the online administration in some schools.

Now, statewide delays have occurred in the grading of the EOCs by the hired contractor. Many schools closed their doors for the summer without receiving results, which means thousands of students have “Incompletes” on their report cards.

As one parent wrote last week, “It is the last day of post planning and the teachers are going home. The math teacher had her last day yesterday. We still are missing scores for the math and English EOC. My school is under major construction all summer. Does this mean my son’s grades will be incomplete until fall?”

While an argument exists to treat this year’s Milestones as a practice round, such a decision could cause a backlash. Consider what one teacher said about the prospect of throwing out EOC scores:

As far as the EOCs go, there are many students in high schools on 4×4 block schedules who took their tests in the fall, and had them count. I’m not sure tossing them for the spring takers would be very fair. I had several students who were failing and ended up with a passing grade after their EOC was added — I’m sure they want their scores to stay exactly the same!

This isn’t in support of the DOE and the Milestones mess; I just want to remind people it wasn’t bad for everyone. I had no technical issues and my scores were back in a couple of days (honestly, I was shocked). However, my test was only multiple choice. Maybe this is an indicator that the grading period for the constructed response questions was way too optimistic. Maybe EOCs need to be multiple choice only.

A DeKalb teacher noted:

I don’t see how the state and school districts are going to handle this. As invalid as these scores may be, those students and parents who have already seen scores and increased grade averages aren’t going to be pleased if those grades now change for the worse. Similarly, those students and parents who see their children’s grades drop because of these questionable scores aren’t going to be satisfied that this lower grade is accurate. My guess is that, as is always the case in Georgia’s public schools, we teachers will be cleaning up this mess in the fall.

Here is a problem with the EOCs. No one — not teachers, students or parents — gets to see them. They only see the results. Yes, that happens with AP exams and the SAT and ACT, but those national standardized tests do not typically play any role in a student’s final grade in a course. Those scores don’t override a teacher’s judgment or negate a student’s efforts in a class.

Some relevant questions that ought to be explored:

-Can GaDOE stand behind these EOCs as valid, especially in view of online administration snafus and grading delays?

-How many states mandate their exams feed into student grades?  The state of New York allows districts to decide whether to use the Regents exams — the granddaddy of high school exit exams dating back to 1866 — in final grades.

-If state exams are going to influence student grades, what is the process to assure alignment between what is taught and what is tested? And how are teachers included in this process?

-How can a parent trust a low score on the EOC is accurate? The natural assumption with a low score is the student didn’t learn the material, but it’s hard to know since the test and scoring are essentially a secret. As a related example, an essay-style question on the AP U.S. History exam last year centered on the rise of conservatism in America in the 1980s. Several metro area students told me their AP classes did not delve into contemporary U.S. history because of how much material had to be covered.

As one teacher wrote about a Milestones test:

I teach Georgia Studies. We have 12 history standards with 2-5 elements under each, 2 geography standards with 3 or 4 elements each, 6 government standards with 3-5 elements each, and 5 economic standards. Counting all of the elements, that’s roughly 70-75 elements. Now, each of those elements can have several people, places, events, or concepts that the students are supposed to know.

I have no idea which ones were on the test. I have no idea if a student who struggled in history missed questions on colonization, the Civil War, the New South Era, the Civil Rights Movement, or modern Georgia. I also have no idea how to interpret the results. According to the key I received, one of my students who was a distinguished learner needed his learning to be monitored in all four areas of Georgia Studies. How can you be a distinguished learner and need monitoring? Distinguished learners score roughly 93 percent or higher. It doesn’t make any sense.

Parents are also baffled by Milestones results — those whose children have results — and unsure where to turn with their questions.

One parent told me her daughter had an A in 9th grade literature. But the teen scored in the low 80s on the End of Course test, dropping her class grade to an 89.

The parent was stunned because her daughter scored in the top 1 percent on the SAT verbal in 7th grade and has 99.9 percent scores in every other verbal comprehension test. And the teen reported to her mom that the lit EOC was easy.

“I find it very confusing that she would have an issue on an EOC,” said the mom. “I have heard so much buzz and controversy in the background about this and now I understand what it is all about. This is something that ultimately affects my child as she is compared to other students nationally for GPAs when getting into college and I am questioning the validity and the scoring of this test.”

Anyone have any way out of this mess?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reader Comments 0

27 comments
jerryeads
jerryeads

I think most would interpret the law to mean that regardless of how badly the tests were made, regardless of how ineptly they were administered, and regardless of how inaccurately they were scored, whatever shot in the dark numbers came out of the process must be applied to the kids.

I'll remind folks again that we've been doing this sort of testing in America since the mid-1970's. You'd think we'd have noticed by now that IT'S NEVER, EVER been demonstrated to have made schools any better. A big part of the reason is that, as pointed out by the teachers, the results never get back to them in time to do anyone any good, and worse, the results, even if they did get back at a time they could be used, do not provide any information that could be used to help kids. 

The biggest chunk of a test score is simply how much mommy and daddy make. We could do this for virtually no cost at all by simply tapping the Georgia Form 500 and failing every kid whose parents make less than, say, $40k. Just to be fair, we could adjust that number every year for inflation. Then we could take the $30-40 million or whatever it is now that we waste on testing and put it towards, say, training teachers to do their own assessment better.

The politicians would be happy because they'd be forcing the same kids to drop out that do now, and at least they'd know the data had some semblance of accuracy, 

eulb
eulb

@jerryeads "I think most would interpret the law to mean that regardless of how badly the tests were made, regardless of how ineptly they were administered, and regardless of how inaccurately they were scored, whatever shot in the dark numbers came out of the process must be applied to the kids."

Jerry, Exactly! 

Since the statute does not provide a way out of this mess, the courts might.  But a judicial remedy is a long shot and would take an unreasonably long time. 

Students, teachers, schools, parents, and taxpayers are probably stuck with this debacle.  Scores will count because legislators did not foresee this mess and did not provide a way out.

MaryWalker
MaryWalker

The way out is easy. STOP BUYING AND GIVING THESE INVALID TESTS! I want to know what my child's teachers say about how well he or she is progressing. NOTHING except teacher-made or curriculum generated tests should be used to determine whether a child graduates or moves to the next grade. Legislators are sadly mistaken if they think that this type of testing is supported by parents or teachers. 


eulb
eulb

I think this year's Milestones EOCTs probably SHOULD be treated as a practice round, but is that possible without reconvening the legislature?

It looks to me like Georgia's law requires that the tests count this year.  I don't see anything that would permit the state DOE or state superintendent to override that.  So the scores will count unless the legislature reconvenes and changes the law.  

Am I reading it wrong?  GA Code section 20-2-281 (h) & (j)

gapeach101
gapeach101

Not only should this year be a practice round, so should next year.  And every year thereafter, until the state shows it can do what it promises.  The first year the state gets it right, then the tests can count--the next year.

eulb
eulb

Maureen, The state board of education meets next Wed & Thurs. Will you be there covering that meeting? 

trifecta_
trifecta_

No test will ever be acceptable to the anti-accountability crowd who congregate around this "education" blog each day.

And apparently, no exaggeration too ludicrous.

cbclark
cbclark

They appear useless and they take up time that could be better used to teach the children. Get rid of this test.

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

I have one question.


Does anyone outside the state of Georgia beauracrats, legislators and their ilk at the K-12 level accept these tests as valid and reliable/gives college credit for them?


berice
berice

Too much importance is put into 1 test.  How is it reasonable for this one assessment to be considered 20% of what a student has learned all year?  That is equivalent to 36 school days or  a major test every 5 days throughout the typical school year. Assessments should be used for informational purposes to help guide instructions, not as a final gotcha to see if you were lucky enough to remember those specific facts or concepts that were covered by that particular test. 

taylor48
taylor48

My son took the Acc. Algebra EOC on May 10th.  It's now May 31st, and still there's no sign of the scores.  Since he's in 8th grade, we can decide whether to take the credit or not.  I don't know what his final grade will be, yet the Carnegie form is due, so we decided not to take the credit.  It's a little frustrating for the parents and the kids.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

Yes, I have an answer as to how to get out of this "mess."  Raise the consciousness of what education is truly about in the minds of DOE educators, Georgia's legislators and educators, Georgia's governors, citizens, including the parents and children of Georgia.  Reach higher.  Testing is a means to an end; not an end in itself.


The following speech was shared today on Jay Bookman's Memorial Day thread by a poster by the name of Tom Middleton. I hope that all will listen to Donovan Livingston's speech in the below link which will define what the end goal of education should be.  Education will save our nation, as Jefferson wrote two centuries ago - but it must be the kind of education described by Livingston:


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9XGUpKITeJM



teachermom4
teachermom4

Another question I have is how are the grades on EOC tests derived. Is it a raw score, where a 50 question tests gives each question equal value at 2 points (as teachers would normally grade), or is it some kind of conversion? If so, what is it based on? I remember on the CRCT having my twins score 20 points different on the reading test. When I looked at the scoring information sheet, the one with the higher score got all of the questions right; the one with the lower score got one question wrong. As a teacher, I know that the difference between a 797 (failing) and 800 (passing) was also one question. So, if these EOCs are being used as grades, are they being scored similarly, with higher performing kids being penalized more for errors? 


This year both of my girls took the EOC in physical science as eighth graders. One scored a 92, the other 82. I have no idea what these grades represent, and that kind of bothers me.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@teachermom4 Based on previous experience with the DOE, those scores probably don't mean much.

BG927
BG927

@teachermom4

I can help a little since the Phys Sci EOC is the test I administered.However, I can’t explain the conversion from scaled score to grade – that shall remain one of life’s great mysteries, I guess. I shared the following information with my students prior to their taking the test.

The Phys Sci EOC consisted of 75 multiple choice questions.The questions varied in difficulty from DOK 1 (depth of knowledge 1 - basic recall to non-educators) to DOK 3 (requiring some analysis – typically graphs, charts, etc.).

Only 55 of the 75 questions counted for the criterion-referenced score that made up the grade.

Eight of the 55 also counted towards a norm-referenced score. An additional 12 questions were also used for the norm-referenced score that were NOT on the topic being tested (physical science students got earth, biology, and general science questions, for example).These questions were separate from the others and the students were alerted to the fact that they would be answering questions not on topic.

That brings us to 67 questions.

The final 8 questions were field test items – they did not count for either the CR or NR score.There is no way to tell which on-topic questions are the field test or dual CR/NR questions.

A couple of final thoughts: The 20 questions that make up the norm-referenced percentile aren’t really a big enough sample size for complete accuracy, which is why you see a range next to the score.If you have a recent ITBS score, I would compare it to that – the closer it is, the more likely it’s close to accurate.

Second, I got the above information from the DOE assessment and study guides on their website.They were pretty informative.Whether you agreed with the testing or not, if your child(ren) is/are going to take the tests, then you should check them out…forewarned is forearmed, IMHO.

Hope that helps!

teachermom4
teachermom4

@BG927 @teachermom4 Thanks! I teach 5th grade, and we have similar test set-ups, in terms of DOK, field test questions, and nationally normed items. My big issue is really related to where the grade comes from. My girls' grades both reflected their over all performance in the class-one had a B average, the other an A. So, as far as that goes, it seems legit. Both did well on the ITBS in the fall. I just object to using a test for a grade that when the scoring is a total mystery, whether my kids do well or not. In addition, I found the Milestones score report last year to be nearly useless. At least on CRCT you could see categories, number of questions, and how many were correct in that category. The test was awful, but at least you could see areas of strength and weakness.

Hollimanspeaks
Hollimanspeaks

@AJCGetSchooled Probably. That makes 2 years in a row w/out usable growth data for Ts & Ss. A test that never counts isn't one worth having

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

What NEEDS to happen will not. The state DOE CANNOT do a good job when it has to follow the whims of the legislature and governor.  It MUST be independent, and staffed with competent, experienced educators, not glorified paper pushers, the politically connected, and yes-men.  Until this happens, we will continue to see a mess (I am being kind here) like this year after year, decade after decade.

Kathryn Antman
Kathryn Antman

Count them if they help the student, don't if they don't help.

eulb
eulb

Kathryn, At first, that was the way I was leaning, too.  But if pressed to defend that solution, I can't.  Here are some concerns: 

(1)  Is it even legal to count only the helpful scores?  The legislature certainly didn't intend for that to be a possible outcome.

(2) What would you do about teachers' evaluations?  Count only students' scores that help the teachers? And is that legal?

(3) The basic problem  smacking us in the face is this: there's no reason to count any  student's score for any purpose unless the test and scoring are both valid -- meaning fair and accurate.  If the test results are valid, all scores (not just the ones that "help" students) should count.   If the results are not reliable enough for that use, no students' scores should count.   


jezel
jezel

One big CON JOB on the public. Nothing less .... nothing more. People wake up.

Ceretta Sheppard
Ceretta Sheppard

Yes they should and it's never too late to correct a problem.