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Barrow schools prepare for new tests

POSTED: June 11, 2014 12:00 p.m.

The director of student services for the Barrow County School System sees a lot of promise, but also some issues with the new testing system the state of Georgia recently announced it would be implementing in place of the CRCT and EOCT.

Georgia Department of Education announced last week that the Georgia Milestones Assessment System will be implemented during the upcoming academic year to replace both the Criterion-Reinforced Competency Test and the End of Course Tests that all students have taken for years (third-eighth graders take the CRCT and ninth-twelfth the EOCT).

Matt Thompson, Barrow’s director of student services, said he likes many of the changes in the new tests, but he’s concerned with how quickly districts are being asked to transition.

"It has the potential to be a very good thing for our students," Thompson said, "but how it is rolled out and what growing pains are associated with it remain to be seen and could certainly be a problem in the short term."

The growing pains, Thompson noted, are likely due to the state pulling out of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, which Georgia had previously been aligned with in creating new tests before deciding to instead create its own test.

"We do have concerns that a lot of this is being rolled out very fast and with very little groundwork being laid ahead of time," he said. "That isn’t really anyone’s fault per se, but more a logical outcome of pulling out of the PARCC assessments so close to the end of the state’s contracts with the CRCT and EOCT."

The new test will be aligned to the Common Core Georgia Performance Standards and will require more from students than the CRCT and EOCT it replaces, according to a state department of education news release, in order to better prepare students for college and career and to provide a more realistic picture of academic progress.

Unlike the previous system, the new test features just one consistent testing program across grades 3-12, whereas previously students took a series of individual tests.

The increased expectations for student learning reflected in Georgia Milestones may mean initially lower scores than the previous years’ CRCT or EOCT scores.

That is to be expected and should bring Georgia’s tests in line with other indicators of how our students are performing, State School Superintendent Dr. John Barge 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," Barge said in the release.

The new testing system will include open-ended questions to better gauge students’ content mastery, according to the release. With some exceptions for special education students with specific testing accommodations, the release noted that Georgia Milestones will be administered entirely online by the fifth year of implementation, compared to just 35 percent of the EOCT being completed online during the just-completed school year.

Thompson likes many of the features.

"In theory and concept I wholeheartedly agree with what the milestones are about and how they shift the focus of state assessment. The greater emphasis on higher level conceptual items, performance items, and a move towards online assessment are all badly needed," he said. "Additionally, the Milestones appear to be pushing us away from testing with major standardized instruments throughout the year to more targeted end of course or year testing by incorporating writing and norm-referenced items into a more comprehensive evaluation. As that (in theory) frees up more time for instruction and enrichment that is a very good thing."

The State recently awarded a bid on Wednesday, May 28 to CTB/McGraw-Hill to develop the new testing system. The award is for a $107.8-million, five-year contract.

 

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