Georgia Milestones scores from the 2017-2018 school year have been released by the Georgia Department of Education. While there are many areas where Pickens County students improved over last year, there are some areas that need attention.
The 2017-2018 school year was the fourth time students took the Georgia Milestones test, which replaced the Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests (CRCT). Georgia Milestones scores are used to assess the mastery of Georgia Performance Standards. Milestone scores include End of Grade (EOG) tests for grades 3-8 and high school End of Course (EOC) tests.
Students are placed in one of four levels of learners in the Georgia Milestones: (1) Beginning, (2) Developing, (3) Proficient and (4) Distinguished. Students who score in the Proficient or Distinguished categories have demonstrated mastery of content for their grade and are considered on track to be college and career ready. The goal is to have students operating at the Proficient Learner level or above.
Students are tested in English/language arts, math, science and social studies. Students are only required to be tested in the areas of science and social studies in 5th grade and 8th grade.
“Overall, Pickens County students showed an improvement in scores, but we still have room to grow,” said Pickens County School Director of Teacher and Learning Jill Liberatore. “We have been working diligently in identifying strategies to best help our students.”
When asked what areas Pickens County students performed strongest and demonstrated the most improvement, Liberatore said:
•3rd grade ELA (English Language Arts) and math scores were higher than the state average for Developing, Proficient and Distinguished Learners and improved from the previous year.
•4th grade math scores were higher than the state average for Developing, Proficient and Distinguished Learners and improved for the grade level from the previous year.
•5th grade showed growth in the Distinguished level ELA.
•6th grade scores were higher than state averages for ELA and math.
•6th grade ELA and math scores showed a jump in Proficient Learners.
•7th grade ELA surpassed the state averages in ELA and math for Developing and Proficient Learners.
•7th grade showed a notable increase in Distinguished Learners for ELA, and Proficient and Distinguished Learners for math.
•9th Grade Literature and Composition had tremendous growth the past three years, surpassing other schools in the Pickens RESA district and in the state for Proficient and Distinguished Learners.
•Biology scores of Proficient and Distinguished Learners rose to a three-year high and surpassed the state average.
•US History scores for Proficient and Distinguished Learners rose from the previous year and surpassed state average.
When asked where students didn’t perform as well and how the system is approaching those areas, Liberatore said curriculum directors are pinpointing spots that need improvement with the system using a variety of methods to address those needs.
•Reading – There will be more of a focus on reading and Lexile levels for all grades, with reading and writing across the curriculum. They will also place more focus on all grade levels to support stronger foundational reading skills, implement Fast ForWord, a program designed to strengthen the reading skills of young learners, maximize ELA curriculum across all content areas, and implement Fast ForWord to improve reading skills in grades K-4.
•Math - Expand personalized learning in math and implement a new benchmarking and progress monitoring program (STAR Math).
•Science - They will support growth in scores for the Physical Science EOC by moving that course from 9th grade to 11th grade for most students to allow them to have a better math foundation. Liberatore says this should help students in the class as well as allow more time for students to develop and be able to handle the abstract concepts within the course. There will also be common assessments among all teachers in grade level content areas.
•Other areas of attention - Technology training has been identified as a need to best support use of effective technology in the classroom. There will be an increase of in-house training on effective use of technology. The district also hosted the first annual North Georgia Google Summit in September to introduce innovative ways to integrate technology in the classroom.
Last year’s scores showed math as an area in need of improvement for Pickens County students. For the 2017-2018 scores, math improved in “five out of eight grade bands or content areas.”
“We credit the improvements to teachers using personalized learning to reach each of their students,” Liberatore. “We also give credit to the contracted services that were brought in to help the teachers best reach the needs of the students. This year, there is a district-wide initiative to implement personalized learning in classes in all schools. For example, Pickens High School is implementing personalized learning in Algebra I classes for the first time.”