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Milestones scores make gains
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Georgia Milestones test scores were released last week and Dawson County students were in the top 20 in the state in multiple grade levels across several subject areas.

Students in grades 3-8 are tested using an end of grade test, while high school students are administered end of course tests at the end of the winter and spring semesters.

"For our end of grade, we were in the top 20 in the state in the areas of science and social studies for our sixth and seventh grades," said Janice Darnell, director of student support.

For the eighth grade social studies, Dawson County was also in the top 20.

This is the second year of the Milestones testing, which replaced the Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests (CRCT) last year. This is also the first year that all of the testing was administered completely online to all students in the county.

The comprehensive assessment system measures students learning and skills in content areas as put in place by the state. The tests cover English/language arts, mathematics, science and social studies.

Students are tested but not compared to one another. The results look at how they are achieving in each content area. Results are given to parents as well as the schools.

"We were able to see across the district as a whole, gains. We did have some setbacks that we are looking at, but as far as being able to establish a pattern right now with only two years' worth of data, it is kind of hard to see a pattern," Darnell said.

The state is divided into several areas with schools grouped in collections known as Regional Education Service Agencies or RESAs.

"We are in the Pioneer RESA district and it is the highest performing RESA in the state of Georgia," Darnell said.

"Our sixth and seventh grade ELA and social studies scores were within the top three of the RESA. We are really pleased with that."

Analyzing results at the high school level are a bit more difficult, according to Darnell, because schools are on different schedules throughout the year.

"Some have full year-long schedules and some have block schedule like we do," she said. "When you look at those scores you kind of have to take that in mind that not everybody is counted in the winter count that would be counted in the spring count because they are on the full year."

For the spring scores, Dawson County High School students were in the top 20 in the state in American Literature, coordinate algebra and biology.

"We have been doing really well in biology the past several years so that's our shining star."

In those same areas, Dawson County is in the top three of the Pioneer RESA.

"We are really proud of those math scores doing so well in that area. That has been an area we have been focusing on as a district for several years now, is getting our math to come up," she said.

As this was the first year for complete online testing, there were a few hiccups in the process with some students getting logged out and having to log back in.

"There was one day that we did have some difficulties. It seems like it was one day at every school and it was not all on the same day. We were able to get most of the problems corrected within just a few minutes so that they were able to go ahead and keep going," she said.

Scores for this past spring's assessments were shipped to school districts in July and are expected to go home with students when school starts back.

For parents who have questions about their child's results and what the scores mean, the state has resources to help.

"The state has done a really good job of providing resources for us to be able to look by standard and see exactly what the child should know and be able to do at the different performance levels," Darnell said.

Beyond the web site, Darnell said that parents can contact their child's school.

"I know they will have planned meetings where they will go over the results globally, but they are always willing to sit down individually...to understand what does that really mean," she said.

To find more information online, visit gadoe.org.