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Georgia Milestones 2020-21 results released
Georgia Department of Education logoConyers, Ga. – Georgia Milestones test scores for 2020-2021 were released recently for Rockdale County Public Schools (RCPS) and the state. It is important to note these scores should be interpreted in context due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and year-to-year comparisons should not be made for school- and district-level results. Taking the 2021 Georgia Milestones assessments was optional for virtual students and around two-thirds of RCPS students remained fully virtual for the spring 2021 semester, resulting in non-representative participation of the assessments.

RCPS Superintendent Dr. Terry Oatts said, “Our 2021 Georgia Milestones Assessment data lacks the typical weight that it carried in the past in verifying students’ level of mastery of grade-level and course content due to the unprecedented public health crisis that totally reshaped the achievement landscape for our students during the last year-and-a-half. The administration of standardized state assessments was largely an exercise in compliance to the U.S. Department of Education’s decision not to waive assessments. As participation in the 2021 Milestones Assessments was voluntary for virtual students, we saw record non-participation on the part of our students.

“I commend our administrators, support personnel, and especially our teachers for their patience, persistence, and professionalism during what was arguably their most challenging year to date,” Dr. Oatts said. “Notwithstanding the public health crisis, they did their best to deliver the content standards to our students both virtually and later in-person on our hybrid schedule. While we know that in-person instruction is ideal, the priority for RCPS was the public health safety and well-being of our students and staff. We were never under any illusions about the potential implications of our public health measures on some of our students’ performance on the state assessments. Instead, our focus was on implementing our district’s internal balanced assessment system of utilizing common formative assessments, common unit assessments, as well as our district’s interim assessment measure – STAR – to inform instructional strategies. Additionally, our district effectively enlisted the Teacher Clarity Framework, which emphasizes high impact core instructional strategies such as the use of learning targets and success criteria.”

Despite the fact that RCPS students were all virtual for two-thirds of the 2020-2021 school year, scores from RCPS show that of the students who participated, 61% were at or above grade level in English Language Arts, 48% were at or above grade level in Math, 47% were at or above grade level in Science, and 63% were at or above grade level in Social Studies.

State Superintendent Richard Woods said, “Georgia Milestones was designed to measure instruction during a typical school year, and 2020-2021 was anything but. Rolling quarantines, rising case counts, and shifting instructional models impacted the educational experience for students throughout the state. Given all this – along with statewide differences in participation – we expected some decreases this year. Georgia educators and students have worked extremely hard and these results do not reflect or diminish their efforts. With educators already working to get students back on track and the vast majority of school districts offering five days a week of in-person instruction this year, I’m confident students will receive the support they need to make up any lost ground.”


Participation in Testing 2020-2021

Overall assessment participation rates for the state and district were much lower when compared to previous years, due to health and safety concerns associated with in-person testing. Guidance issued by the Georgia Department of Education (GaDOE), in line with federal guidance, made clear that school districts should not require virtual students to come into the building solely for the purpose of taking Georgia Milestones if they were uncomfortable doing so due to the pandemic, and should ensure parents understood this option was available to them.

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All RCPS students were fully virtual for the fall 2020 semester and for the spring 2021 semester, about two-thirds of students remained fully virtual. In February 2021, only about a third of RCPS students began in-person learning on a hybrid schedule for those that selected in-person learning.

In RCPS, participation ranged from a high of 53% in third grade to a low of 10% in a high school course.  Participation in End of Grade (EOG) tests ranged from 53% in third grade to 32% in eighth grade. Participation in high school End of Course (EOC) tests ranged from 21% to 10% of those enrolled in each course.

Statewide, the percentage of enrolled students tested ranged from a high of 79% in third grade to a low of 55% in high school.
 

Why Students Tested in 2020-2021 & How Scores Will Be Used

In July 2020 and February 2021, GaDOE applied to the U.S. Department of Education (USED) for a waiver of high-stakes testing requirements for the 2020-2021 school year. Unfortunately, USED denied Georgia’s request, along with similar requests from other states.
 
Following the denial, Superintendent Woods and GaDOE worked to provide maximum flexibility around testing to reduce the impact to students and teachers for circumstances beyond their control:
 
•    Guidance was issued to school districts, in line with federal guidance, that virtual students should not be required to come into the building solely for the purpose of taking Georgia Milestones, if they were uncomfortable doing so due to the pandemic.
•    Districts with flexibility contracts (including RCPS) were directed to waive promotion/retention consequences tied to Georgia Milestones for the 2020-2021 school year.
•    The State Board of Education approved Superintendent Woods’ proposal to temporarily lower the EOC course grade weight to .01%.
•    GaDOE applied for and received a waiver of accountability requirements from USED, meaning there will not be a College & Career Ready Performance Index (CCRPI) in 2021.
•    Teacher Effectiveness Measure (TEM) and Leader Effectiveness Measure (LEM) ratings will not be determined due to the suspension of student growth scores for 2021-22, meaning 2020-21 test scores will not affect teacher and leader evaluations.
•    Schools will not be newly identified for Comprehensive Support and Improvement (CSI) or Targeted Support and Improvement (TSI).
 
Students take Georgia Milestones End of Grade (EOG) tests in grades three through eight, and End of Course (EOC) tests in identified high school courses. The Georgia Milestones assessment system meets the federal requirement that states test students in math and ELA in grades 3-8 and once in high school, and in science once per grade band (3-5, 6-8, 9-12).

To view all the Milestones results, please visit the Georgia Department of Education at www.gadoe.org.