State-, district-, and school-level scores from the 2020-2021 administration of the Georgia Milestones Assessment System (EOGs in grades 3-8 and EOCs in grades 9-12) were released today.
While the scores show slight decreases compared to 2018-2019 – the last year Georgia Milestones tests were administered – it is essential that these results be interpreted in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and associated learning disruptions, along with differences in participation. Georgia Milestones was designed to measure the performance of students in a typical educational environment, and in 2020-2021, rolling quarantines, rising case counts, and shifting instructional models impacted the educational experience for students throughout the state. Additionally, fewer students statewide participated in testing compared to 2018-2019, due to safety concerns associated with the pandemic.
School districts, the news media, parents, and community members should use caution in making year-to-year comparisons using the state level data, due to these changes in students’ learning environments and differences in participation. In general, year-to-year comparisons should not be made using school- and district-level data.
“Georgia Milestones was designed to measure instruction during a typical school year, and 2020-2021 was anything but,” State School Superintendent Richard Woods said. “Given the impacts of the pandemic on all students, 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 in 2020-2021
Overall assessment participation rates for the state are lower when compared to previous years, due to health and safety concerns associated with in-person testing. Guidance issued by State School Superintendent Richard Woods made clear, in line with federal guidance, 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.
Statewide, the percent of enrolled students tested ranges from a high of 79% in third grade to a low of 55% in high school. Rates vary across systems and schools. Detailed information on the percent of students tested in the state and by system and school can be found in the reports linked at the top of this release.
Compared to the last Georgia Milestones tests administered in 2018-2019, statewide performance decreased slightly – by an average of six points in grades 3-8, and a range of 4 to 15 points in high school. There was a 1-point increase in Physical Science, but it is important to note this test was only administered to eighth grade students in 2019-2020, whereas in previous years it was administered to all students (middle and high school) enrolled in Physical Science. Exact scores for each subject area and tested high school course are available in the reports linked at the top of this release.
“Given the magnitude of learning disruptions experienced this school year, these decreases are not particularly large,” said Dr. Allison Timberlake, GaDOE Deputy Superintendent for Assessment & Accountability. “There is historical precedent to expect to see achievement increase at a similar rate in coming years as we return to educational environments with fewer disruptions to student learning.”
Working to Address Learning Loss
While some decreases in scores were expected, the Georgia Department of Education and local districts and schools have been proactive and aggressive in getting students back on track.
Nearly all school districts reported that they planned to use formative assessments to measure and address learning loss, and GaDOE provided a free formative tool aligned to Georgia Milestones – BEACON – which has been administered over one million times.
State and local funds have been dedicated to address learning loss, including significant investments in instructional resources and supports; state and regional Academic Recovery Specialists; and connectivity/internet infrastructure in rural and underserved areas.
The results also show the importance of offering in-person instruction whenever possible, and the vast majority of Georgia school districts have started the year with five days a week of in-person learning.
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 his team worked to provide maximum flexibility around testing and ensure the health and safety of every student. This means students and teachers will not be held accountable 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 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).
Why Students Take Georgia Milestones
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).