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Dawson County prepares for Milestones testing
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The State of Georgia is getting ready to roll out a new set of tests for students in order to comply with the Common Core State Standards system.

Georgia Milestones will replace the Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests, or CRCT, and End of Course Tests, or EOCT, this year as the standardized tests by which student achievement is measured.

In an email to the Dawson County Board of Education, Melissa Fincher, Deputy Superintendent for Assessment and Accountability with the State Board of Education, notified the Dawson County board that "the [state board of education has] waved the promotion and retention requirements for grades three, five and eight, as well as the requirement that the end of course score contribute to 20 percent to the student's final course grade for the 2014-15 school year" in regards to the new tests.

The waver was granted due to the instatement of the Milestones assessment system, but does not apply for accountabilities measures such as the College and Career Readiness Performance Index, or CCRPI.

"We're being told that we are not going to receive the results of these spring assessments until next fall," said Dawson County School Superintendent Damon Gibbs. "Therefore, how could we have used it for retention and promotion or use it for 20 percent of a student's grade if we're not even getting it until the fall? In essence, I don't think the state really had a choice but to grant this waiver. You can't use test data that you don't have."

The new tests are expected to be more challenging across the board.

"The assessments that we are mandated at the state level to give to our students are based on the Common Core curriculum. A move away from the Common Core will move away from what our students are required to be tested and assessed on by the state," Gibbs said. "We are asking our teachers to begin assessing our students throughout the year in a similar fashion to what they will see on the Georgia Milestones Assessment."

The tests will include both open-ended and multiple-choice questions, where the CRCT and EOCT were entirely multiple-choice.

State education officials and governors in 48 states came together to develop the Common Core, a set of clear college- and career-ready standards for kindergarten through 12th grade in English language arts/literacy and mathematics.

"I think this is a good thing, but it's going to be an adjustment," said Rick Brown, Dawson County school system's Assistant Superintendent for curriculum and instruction. "Since day one, we have talked to our teachers about preparing our students. These tests are all related to the standards and will be focused on the standards they will have to meet."

Currently, 43 states have voluntarily adopted and are working to implement these standards, which are designed to ensure that students graduating from high school are prepared to take credit bearing introductory courses in two- or four-year college programs or enter the workforce.