Georgia Milestones Raises Georgia’s Proficiency Standards and Closes the Honesty Gap between National and State Expectations

February 5, 2016

In a recent Education Next study examining proficiency standards for state standardized assessments, Georgia’s proficiency standards received an “A” rating, a sharp increase from its rating as an “F” in 2013.[1] The improvement coincides with the introduction of Georgia Milestones during the 2014-2015 school year, which aligned Georgia’s proficiency standards more closely with the internationally-benchmarked proficiency standards of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), also referred to as “the Nation’s Report Card.”

The NAEP is a biannual assessment given to a representative sample of 4th and 8th grade students in Georgia and all other states.[2] Georgia Milestones EOC is an annual state assessment given to all Georgia 3rd to 8th graders.[3] The study compares the percentage of students identified in each state as “proficient” on state-developed assessments of mathematics and reading, like the Georgia Milestones, with the percentage of students identified as proficient on the NAEP for mathematics and reading. The discrepancy between proficiency rates on state assessments and the NAEP is often referred to as an “honesty gap.”[4] The study provides a rating for each state on an A-F scale based on the size of the honesty gap. It is important to note that this comparison is not a reflection of students’ actual performance but rather of the consistency in proficiency rates between the two assessments.

From 2005 to 2013, Georgia consistently received an “F” for its poor alignment of proficiency rates on state assessments with the NAEP. In 2011, Georgia was ranked last among the 50 states and the District of Columbia for its low proficiency standards on its 4th and 8th grade mathematics and reading assessments.[5] In 2013, Education Next calculated that the proficiency rate on Georgia’s Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests (CRCT) was 57 percentage points higher than Georgia’s proficiency rate on the NAEP. With the implementation of Georgia Milestones, Georgia narrowed its honesty gap between state exams and the NAEP to just six percentage points between 2013 and 2015, which is the largest reduction of the honesty gap among 36 states that strengthened their proficiency standards between 2013 and 2015.

The figure below compares the difference in proficiency rates on the CRCT and the NAEP in 2013 to the difference in proficiency rates on Georgia Milestones and the NAEP in 2015 for 4th and 8th grade mathematics and reading assessments. The percentage of students scoring proficient or above on the Georgia Milestones is three percentage points higher than the NAEP in 4th grade reading, nine percentage points higher in 8th grade reading, five percentage points higher in 4th grade mathematics, and nine percentage points higher in 8th grade mathematics. The average proficiency rate on Georgia Milestones is 6.5 percentage points higher than the average proficiency rate on the NAEP’s 4th and 8th grade mathematics and reading assessments.

Figure 1: Comparison of Georgia State Assessments and NAEP Proficiency Rates in 2013 and 2015
Source: Governor’s Office of Student Achievement Report CardNAEP 2013 Mathematics and Reading Scores for GeorgiaGeorgia Department of Education 2015 End of Grade Milestones Scores, and NAEP 2015 Mathematics and Reading Scores for Georgia

In summary, results from the first administration of Georgia Milestones during the 2014-2015 school year demonstrate that it provides a more accurate picture of how Georgia students perform on international benchmarks than Georgia’s prior assessments.


[1] The article presents the latest findings in a series of studies on state proficiency standards conducted by the Harvard Program on Educational Policy and Governance.

[2] The NAEP is also given periodically in other subjects and grade levels. For more information, click on this link: http://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/about/.

[3]For more information on Georgia Milestones, see GOSA’s education update Georgia Milestones: Georgia’s New Standardized Test. The CRCT categorized students into one of three performance levels, while Georgia Milestones places students into one of four performance levels. As such, the two assessments are not directly comparable so this analysis focuses solely on comparing Georgia Milestones performance with the NAEP.  

[4] For more information on the honesty gap, click on the following link: http://honestygap.org/what-is-the-honesty-gap/.

[5] For more information, see GOSA’s education update A Snapshot of K-8 Academic Achievement in Georgia and the 2013 Education Next article on state proficiency standards.