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Georgia students show progress in Milestones tests

The Georgia Department of Education’s Milestones test results for the last school year released Friday show improvement over the previous year’s results but are still mostly below pre-pandemic levels.

The Milestones standardized tests assess student performance in core academic subjects. The results are used at the student, school, school district, and state levels to assess how Georgia students are learning.

Student scores improved on 17 of the 21 assessments, compared to the previous year. “The state, districts, and local schools have been laserfocused on addressing the impact of lost learning activities,” State School Superintendent Richard Woods said.

The Department of Education has hired academic recovery specialists and is using summer learning and after-school programs to provide additional learning hours to students. “These results show those efforts are paying off and students’ academic achievement has returned to the upward trajectory it was on prior to COVID,” Woods said.

Despite the improvement over the previous school year’s scores, this year’s results show that a significant number of Georgia children are reading below grade level.

In the third grade, 36% of students are reading below grade level. Back in 2019 before the pandemic, 27% of students were reading below grade level.

Among sixth graders – who would have been in the fourth grade when the pandemic began – 45% are reading below grade level. Back in 2019, 39% were reading below grade level.

In the eighth grade, 30% of students are reading below grade level, with 70% at or above grade level. Those eighth graders would have been in the sixth grade when the pandemic started.

In terms of high school, only one Milestones test – the American Literature exam – measures reading. Thirty-one percent of students who took the class are reading below grade level, and 69% are at or above grade level.

The tests also cover math as well as science and social studies in some grades.

Only 36% of the eighthgrade students were deemed “proficient and above” in math, meaning they could move on to the next math class without additional support.

And for Algebra I, which most but not all Georgia high school students take, only 37% of students are proficient and above.

“We’re going to be using these scores to determine where to push in supports and continue addressing learning loss,” said Allison Timberlake, the DOE’s deputy superintendent for assessment and accountability.

Timberlake said the 2021-2022 scores will be used to set a new baseline for future performance assessments.

The state will update its list of schools whose results indicate they need extra assistance for the first time since before the pandemic, she said.

Statewide results as well as district and school results are available on the Department of Education website.

Timberlake said milestones testing has faced several challenges over the past few years due to the pandemic. This year’s participation rates rose to close to prepandemic levels, she said.

Timberlake said caution should be used when making comparison between last year’s results and this year’s results – especially at the school and school district levels – because of the ways in which the last school year continued to be disrupted by the pandemic.

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