The results of the Georgia Milestones test are in, and despite lower than expected scores, Dawson County school officials said they are not disappointed.
"This was our learning year," said Janice Darnell, director of student support. "These scores are not quite as high as we're used to seeing, but when we look across how we compare as far as everyone else who was also in their learning year, we actually think we fared pretty well."
Released Monday, the scores reflect the first administration of Georgia's new comprehensive testing system, replacing the previous Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests.
"This first year of the administration of the assessment, we were preparing our students the best we could, but really until you've administered the test and seen how the feedback comes back, we really didn't know what we were looking for," Darnell said.
The assessment is designed to measure the proficiency of students in mastery of state core content curricular standards in language arts, math, science and social studies.
Georgia Milestones assess student learning along four levels of performance, compared to three, as was the case for the CRCT.
Most students are considered "developing learners," one of four categorical rankings under the Milestones, or better.
Developing learners show "partial proficiency" based on the state standards, and they need some additional support to succeed at the next grade level. The two levels above that include proficient learners and distinguished learners.
Students in grades 3-8 take the assessment, as well as high school students enrolled in one of the eight required courses with an end of the course test.
Dawson County's scores were better than the state average in most content areas and grade levels.
District scores were higher than the state average in every content area for grades 3-8, while every high school content area besides the high school's spring American Lit (at 1 percent lower) and winter analytical geometry (at 1.3 percent lower) were higher than the state average.
The highest percentages above the state average were for spring (19.67 percent above) and winter (18.73 percent above) biology students at Dawson County High.
Beginning this school year, the Milestones end-of-course tests will be used to determine if a high school student can progress to the next grade level and will count as 20 percent of the final grade in a particular subject.
Passing scores vary by grade level and subject. For many, passing scores will fall in the "proficient learner" category.
Eighth grade social studies scores were also significantly higher (15.36 percent) than the state average.
Other notable achievements where Dawson County students outscored state averages were in third grade social studies, fifth grade math and science, sixth grade science and social studies, and seventh grade science and social studies.
Darnell said she believes scores will continue to climb with the system's goal to administer the tests online for students in every grade level.
"High school has been 100 percent online for several years now. We will be transitioning to, we hope, 100 percent online for all grade levels tested this year," she said. "The students seem to respond better. I think they are just more comfortable."
The state has also equipped schools with additional resources intended to better prepare students.
"The state has worked really hard to provide a blueprint of standards that will be assessed," Darnell said. "I expect our scores to be greatly increased as a result of having this new information, knowing where our baseline is now and knowing where to start."
DCN regional staff contributed to this story.