This go-round, students were assessed on reading, math, English/language arts, science and social studies via the state’s Criterion-Referenced Competency Test, which determines if students “meet or exceed expectations” standards required for promotion to the next grade.
The CRCT was more rigorous this year, according to Randy Weiner, chairman of the Marietta Board of Education, because of the new curriculum. Of course, each new set of tests is supposed to be more rigorous, and of course, each new set of tests costs the state (taxpayers) millions of dollars.
Take, for example, the new test replacing the CRCT: the Georgia Milestones Assessment System testing. It’s supposed to be — like its predecessors — harder than its predecessors. No doubt, like CRCT and other bygone tests, the new exam will send students and parents to new levels of stress preparing for and taking the test. Of course, teachers will have to digest all the rules and regulations for the latest version of tests.
The state education department has said the new system replaces both the CRCT and the End of Course Test — and “will be aligned to the Common Core Georgia Performance Standards and will require more from students than the CRCT and EOCT it replaces.” This new system is supposed to be “one consistent testing program across grades 3-12,” versus the previous series of individual tests. Of course: “The increased expectations for student learning reflected in Georgia Milestones may mean initially lower scores than the previous years’ CRCT or EOCT scores.”
The new tests “will be administered entirely online” — by the fifth year of the system’s being implemented, “with some exceptions for special education students with specific testing accommodations.” By comparison, in the 2013-14 school year, only 35 percent of EOCTs were administered online. Whatever may result from the new testing, a winner right off the bat is CTB/McGraw Hill, which is to be paid $107.8 million over five years to develop the Milestones program.
In the words of Dr. John Barge, state schools superintendent: “We need to know that students are being prepared, not at a minimum competency level, but with rigorous, relevant education to enter college, the workforce or the military at a level that makes them competitive with students from other states.” Note the time-worn “rigorous” and “relevant” apply to each new set of tests.
In my book, Cobb’s interim super, Chris Ragsdale, hit the nail on the head. He said the CRCT scores allow the district to see what’s working — and he added: “There’s not a template that we can use for every school because what works well in one school may not work well at another school or possibly any other school in the district.” Amen.