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Posted: June 24, 2014 10:00 p.m.

Testing overhaul

State announces new testing system to replace CRCT

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The sample Georgia Milestones items were pulled from various assessment systems other states have used that may be similar to Georgia's new assessment items. CRCT items were pulled from actual past tests.

What students, parents and teachers have been doing to prepare for and take tests until now may not cut it next year, and the Newton County Schools administration is doing its best to prepare for a more rigorous year.

The Georgia Department of Education (GADOE) announced earlier in June the implementation of a new testing system, the Georgia Milestones Assessment System (Georgia Milestones), during the 2014-2015 academic year to replace both the CRCT and EOCT tests.

Georgia Milestones will be aligned to the Common Core Georgia Performance Standards (CCGPS) and will require more from students than the CRCT and EOCT tests it replaces after 14 and 11 years, respectively. According to a GADOE press release, Georgia Milestones will better prepare students for college and careers and to provide a more realistic picture of academic progress.

A major benefit to the new testing system is that it is consistent across grades three-12, whereas until now students took a series of individual tests, the press release 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,” said State School Superintendent John Barge.

The State of Georgia awarded a bid to CTB/McGraw-Hill on Wednesday, May 28 to develop the new system during a five-year $107.8 million contract, according to the GADOE website and the Georgia Procurement Registry.

Increased expectations for student learning reflected in Georgia Milestones may mean initially lower scores than the previous years’ CRCT and EOCT scores. That is expected and should bring Georgia’s tests in line with other indicators of how our students are performing, Barge said.

Not a new CRCT

While initial scores are expected to be lower across the board — more in line with last year’s coordinate algebra and analytic geometry tests, which will be new tests but will reflect the same rigor — Newton County School System (NCSS) administration said cannot be compared because “it’s a completely different assessment.”

It’s no longer good enough just to fill in a multiple choice bubble, said NCSS Superintendent Samantha Fuhrey. Students will now have to justify why they think an answer on a test is correct through a written response.

Georgia Milestones assesses students in English and math with three forms of questions:
- Selected response: multiple choice
- Constructed response: written response to a question with evidence from the question cited in reasoning
- Extended response: written, long-form response to a question or problem

NCSS is going beyond state requirements of applying these assessment forms to English and math by making all major assessments more rigorous, including social studies and science, according to Shannon Buff, director of secondary curriculum at NCSS.

The new system also does away with writing assessments for grades three, five and eight and requires such tests for every grade through the extended responses.

Students in grades three through eight will take End of Grade (EOG) tests, and high school students will take End of Course (EOC) tests. High school juniors will still take the Georgia High School Writing Test, which will still be a diploma requirement, Buff said.

“We are not truly assessing at the national level like we should be,” said Allison Jordan, director of testing, research and evaluation at NCSS, of both Newton County schools and schools statewide.

The current scoring system of “does not meet,” “meets” and “exceeds” scores will be thrown out, as well as any comparison to the CRCT and EOCT tests. New “readiness indicators” will require different standards to reach the same score, according to the Superintendent’s Month in Review from May.

“That’s a paradigm shift for us as well as for parents,” Jordan said. “It’s concerning to think about what this test will look like.”

Students no longer can employ a “plug-and-chug” technique and have a statistical opportunity to guess the correct answer, Jordan said. It requires a higher level of thinking, one which students have not been required to do so far.

“A change for everyone”

NCSS administration must not only educate students on these changes. Parents also have to be provided resources so they, in turn, can help their children keep up with these elevated standards.

“It’s a change for everyone involved,” said Craig Lockhart, NCSS deputy superintendent of schools. “This is a process. It’s going to take some time. It’s a state goal to produce a globally competitive workforce. The process of getting to that level has been long and involved.”

He said it is the school district’s responsibility to respond to any change that comes from the state, even if frequent changes may disrupt a continuous learning flow.

Superintendent Fuhrey said students and parents should expect a dip in scores with anything new but that the struggle is where they can learn the most.

“A different and more rigorous classroom should be expected,” Fuhrey said.

In school, teachers will stress research-based instructional strategies, filling in background knowledge, technology integration and leveraging assessment preparation at a higher velocity, Fuhrey said.

Testing, Research and Evaluation Director Jordan said although it may seem like the district is teaching to the test, “it needs to be teaching for learning.”

Secondary Curriculum Director Buff said through these monumental changes and higher standards, teachers and administrators have been working through the summer to be ready by August.

“When there is a change, they roll with it and do what we ask of them,” Buff said. “While it’s frustrating, they do so much. They’re working now to get ready and adapt.”

Still have questions?

If you have questions about the new testing system, attend the next education summit on August 23, where NCSS Superintendent Samantha Fuhrey and other school district administration will discuss the new system.

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