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New test promotes problem solving

POSTED: June 11, 2014 4:00 a.m.

The Georgia Department of Education is rolling out a new set of tests to replace the old methods of assessing students.

The Georgia Milestones Assessment System, set to replace Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests and End of Course Tests, will be in place for the upcoming school year.

The CRCT was implemented in 2000, according to the Department of Education's website, and covered third through eighth grade. End of Course Tests, or EOCTs, were given in select high school courses as a final exam.

The new assessment will be aligned with Common Core standards and have open-ended questions alongside typical multiple choice questions.

Common Core is a set of standards for English/language arts and mathematics the state adopted in 2010.

"What these new tests are adding is open-ended questions that will require students to explain their answers instead of the old system of purely multiple choice questions," said Dawson County Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum Rick Brown.

The new tests cover four content areas - math, science, social studies and English/language arts. The Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests included reading as a fifth assessment, but school officials said reading would be incorporated into English/language arts.

According to Melissa Fincher, associate superintendent for assessment and accountability for the Georgia Department of Education, "The new system will span grades three through high school and consist of summative assessments in the content areas of language arts, mathematics, science and social studies."

Students in third through eighth grades will take an end-of-grade assessment in each content area, while high school students will take an end-of-course assessment for each of the eight courses designated by the state board of education.

"We are hoping that this will challenge the students to think critically," Brown said. "We will be spending time starting next school year to work with the online resources provided by the state to begin working with the students."

Brown said that the state plans to move the tests online, with 30 percent done online in year one, 80 percent by year three and 100 percent by year five.

Other features of the tests include a writing and response component at each grade level within the language arts assessment. There is also a complement to complement the criterion-referenced information and provide a national comparison.

"This is going to be a more rigorous testing method and teachers are going to have to change their methods with more open-ended questions," Brown said. "Teachers are already beginning to use these methods already and we are encouraging them to use them as often as possible to assist students."

While these new tests will replace the CRCT and EOCTS, the Georgia High School Writing Test will be administered in September, as state board of education action - via a rule amendment - must take place prior to any changes to the program given the diploma requirement.

"We will begin the discussion with the state board about the need to continue, update or retire this test in the next few months," Fincher said. "Any change in the program, however, will not take place during the 2014-15 school year."




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