Tift County Schools, along with schools throughout Georgia, have received the results from the spring Milestones assessment, the standardized test that replaced the CRCT. Tift’s results were as expected, with fewer students scoring high on the more rigorous exam.
“There are two reasons Tift County, and other schools throughout the state, are seeing fewer students excelling on the new standardized test,” said Mickey Weldon, Chief Academic Officer with Tift County Schools. “One is that 2014-2015 was the first school year students took the GMAS test, and anytime you move to a new testing system, a drop can be expected. The second is the state Department of Education raised the baseline of what is considered proficient for scores.”
“At each of our primary and elementary schools, we had areas of strengths and areas where we know we will need to improve,” said Jan Wise, Director of Curriculum for grades Pre-Kindergarten – fifth grades. “Our staff will be looking at the data and working with principals, teachers, and our curriculum program to build on areas of strength and improve those areas of need.”
In the areas of reading, math, science, social studies, the majority of our primary and elementary schools were either above or within a few points of the South Georgia RESA district, of which Tift County is a part. On the Social Studies assessment, all Tift primary and elementary schools were above or within a few points of the South Georgia RESA district schools.
“In addition, for the first time, writing was assessed in both English Language Arts Math, which impacted the results in English Language Arts,” said Wise. “We recognized a couple of years ago that writing instruction could be improved and have already implemented new writing programs, curriculum, and professional development for our teachers to support this effort.”
A new curriculum has also been put in place to improve how we teach Georgia state standards for mathematics in grades Kindergarten through grade 5.
The same trends were seen in the upper grades.
“This first set of results should serve as baseline data for us to navigate the assessment arena in the future,” said LaShonda Flanders, Director of Curriculum for grades six – 12.
State School Superintendent Richard Woods said this does not mean Georgia students know less or that teachers are not doing a great job – it means they’ve been asked to clear a higher bar.
“Our previous assessment, the CRCT, set some of the lowest expectations for student proficiency in the nation, and that cannot continue,” Woods said. “Georgia Milestones sets higher standards for our students and evens the playing field with the rest of the nation. If we are going to address students’ needs, then we must be honest about how much they really know. ”
Locally, students are continuing to see overall improvement.
“Our job is to prepare students to learn, progress from grade to grade and ultimately graduate,” Superintendent Patrick Atwater said. “While we are feeling some growing pains with this new assessment, our overall goal of graduating students is being met. We once again saw our graduation rate improve, reaching 83.2 percent, up from 74.4 percent last year.”
Students, parents and staff will also be adjusting to the new scale. On the CRCT, students were graded as Does Not Meet, Meets or Exceeds expectations. The GMAS uses Beginning Learners, Developing Learners, Proficient Learners and Distinguished Learners.
"Our administrators and teachers work hard every day to prepare engaging lessons and create a conducive learning environment for our students,” said Weldon. “I have all of the confidence in the world that we will meet the expectations set before us."
Individual students score will be sent home at the end of the week.