October 1, 2014
By Pascal Beaudette
During the 2014-15 school year, students in Georgia will take a new standardized test, Georgia Milestones, to assess academic achievement. These tests replace the Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests (CRCT), End of Course Tests (EOCT), and the writing assessments. This education update explains why the assessment system is changing, what the tests entail, and what this means for parents and education stakeholders in the state.
Transition to Georgia Milestones
In 2010, the Georgia State Board of Education adopted new content standards in language arts, mathematics, science and social studies that strive to improve student learning and prepare students for college and the workplace. Beginning with the 2014-15 school year, the Georgia Department of Education (GaDOE) implemented a new assessment system, Georgia Milestones, to measure how well students have learned the knowledge and skills outlined in these standards.
Previously, elementary and middle school students took the CRCT in five core subjects (English/language arts (ELA), math, reading, science, and social studies), and 3rd, 5th, and 8th grade students also took a separate writing assessment. High school students sat for EOCT after taking certain courses, such as American Literature and Composition, Coordinate Algebra, and US History, and 11th grade students were also required to pass the Georgia High School Writing Test (GHSWT) to graduate.
Georgia Milestones replaces all of these tests, except the GHSWT, which students must still take during the 2014-15 school year. Elementary and middle school students take the new tests at the end of the school year in the core subjects of language arts, math, science, and social studies. Georgia Milestones combines the subject matter found on the reading CRCT, ELA CRCT, and writing assessment into one test, the language arts exam. High school students take the new tests upon completion of the same courses that required EOCT, as designated by the State Board of Education.
Georgia Milestones includes three types of questions: 1) multiple choice, 2) open-ended, and 3) a writing component. Multiple choice questions require students to select an answer from a set of options. These questions comprise 40 of the 55 possible points on the language arts exams, 50 of the 58 possible points on the math exam, and all 55 points on the science and social studies exams. Below is an example of a multiple choice question from a 3rd grade mathematics exam.
Multiple Choice 3rd Grade Math Example Question
Which fraction is the largest?
The second type of question is open-ended and requires students to generate a response that both answers the question and provides an explanation. These types of questions are included in the language arts and math exams, which include three open-ended questions for a total of eight points. The example below illustrates an open-ended question for a 3rd grade math exam.
Open-Ended 3rd Grade Math Example Question
Hector is studying his multiplication facts through the product of 10x10.
Hector says that any multiple of 6 can be divided into 3 equal groups.
Is Hector correct? Explain your answer using words, symbols, or pictures.
Hector finds the product of 4 and 7 by solving the expression 14+14. Explain how 14+14 can be used to find the product of 4 and 7.
The third type of question, the writing component, requires more elaborate answers and extensive explanation. This type of question is included only in the language arts exam. The prompt below is an example of this type of question for an 11th grade exam.
11th Grade Language Arts Writing Component Example Question
There is a debate in your school district over teens and their cell phone usage. Think about where you stand on teens and cell phone use in school. Teens in your school have been invited to a council meeting composed of administrators, teachers, and parents in preparation for a policy decision.
Write the speech presenting your position on cell phone use. Make your arguments on cell phone use during school. Make your arguments clear and give reasons for them. As you support your arguments, consider the counterclaims from those who think differently about cell phone usage.
Source: Kentucky Department of Education
Georgia Milestones will be administered primarily online. The transition from paper/pencil tests to online tests will occur gradually over the course of five years. Students with disabilities will still be able to take paper/pencil tests as needed.
Comparison to Previous Assessments
Students’ results on Georgia Milestones will be different from those they received on the CRCT and EOCT in several ways. First, based on how well they master the course content standards, students will receive one of four performance levels. Previously, students received one of three levels.
Second, Georgia Milestones includes a limited sample of nationally norm-referenced items that show how Georgia students are achieving relative to their national peers. These questions are for comparison purposes only and are not utilized in accountability metrics, such as course grades, student growth measures, and College and Career Ready Performance Index (CCRPI) scores.
During this academic year, students will take Georgia Milestones for the first time instead of the CRCT and EOCT. These exams are aligned with the state-mandated content standards in language arts, mathematics, science, and social studies. The addition of open-ended questions and a writing component provide students with an opportunity to demonstrate mastery of these standards. The new assessments are sufficiently challenging to ensure Georgia students are able to compete with their national peers.
 This assessment will be phased out in the 2015-16 school year.
 Two of the questions are worth two points each. The third question is worth four points.
 GaDOE has not released an example of a writing component question specific to Georgia, but GaDOE refers other states, such as Kentucky, for sample items. For more information, view slide 12 in this presentation.
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