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Everything You Need To Know About the Georgia Milestones Assessment System

If you’ve got a child in the Georgia state school system, then you’ve probably heard of the Georgia Milestones Assessment System and how important it is. They can indeed influence how your child progresses through school. But what exactly is it, and what does it mean? And as a parent, how can you help your children do well on it?

This post is a comprehensive guide on what the Georgia Milestones Assessment System (GMAS) is all about.

What is the GMAS?

Simply put, the Georgia Milestones is an assessment program for school children from grades 3 through high school.

The tests provide information about whether students are grasping their subjects according to the state-adopted standards in the core areas of English language arts (ELA), math, science, and social studies, and whether they are ready to progress to the next grade.

They offer a “snapshot” of what students can do in those subjects. But they are also important for school and district accountability. Informing the students, parents, educators, and the public about how well students are learning important content is an essential aspect of any educational assessment and accountability system.

The Georgia Department of Education (GaDOE) is the authority for Georgia Milestones.

History of GMAS

The Georgia Milestones Assessment System was introduced in 2014-2015 to replace former state assessments which were setting lower standards for students.

In fact, the old tests – the Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests (CRCTs) and high school End of Course Tests (EOCTs) –set some of the lowest expectations for student proficiency in the nation.

The Georgia Milestones are more rigorous and more in line with the rest of the country. In that way, they are a better system because they urge our students to do better. 

Part of what makes them a better assessment than older tests is that they require “constructed responses,” meaning students must provide the correct answer instead of selecting it, or they might have to explain how they got the answer or even explain why a provided answer is wrong.

Features of GMAS

  • Items in ELA and math are open-ended, i.e. they are constructed-response types for all grades and courses.
  • The ELA assessment has a writing component that is in response to passages read by students at every grade level.
  • All content areas and courses have norm-referenced items to compare how students fare at a national level (see National Percentile in Grading).
  • The number of questions in the tests (30-60) and the allotted time to each test (60-90 minutes with breaks between sections) vary by subject.

Educators say that the GMAS isn’t the kind of exams students can study for with a cram session the night before the tests. It takes a sustained effort over the school year and requires students to pay attention in class and as they do their assignments.

We’ve covered in an extensive article what parents can do to help their kids prepare for the GMAS. If you find your child is getting stuck often, there are things you can do to remedy that as well. Check out the rest of our blog for more tips and information.

Who takes the GMAS?

All students from grade 3 all the way up to high school take the GMAS. 

Grades 3 – 8 will take the End of Grade (EOG) assessment.All students who are enrolled in high school courses will take the End of Course (EOC) assessments.

Middle school students who are enrolled in a high school course are required to take the EOC assessment for that course and not the EOG assessment.

  • Grades 3, 4, 6, and 7 take EOG assessments in ELA and math.
  • Grades 5 and 8 take EOG assessments in ELA, math, science, social studies.
  • High School students take EOC assessments for each of the ten courses designated by the State Board of Education across four content areas (listed below).

The EOC tests are administered at the completion of the course for all grades. Additionally, since the 2015-16 school year, these test results serve as the final exam for their corresponding course, and contribute 20% to a student’s final course grade.

Language Arts

  • Ninth Grade Literature and Composition
  • American Literature and Composition

Math

  • Algebra I/Coordinate Algebra
  • Geometry/Analytic Geometry

Science

  • Biology
  • Physical Science​​

​​Social Studies

  • United States History
  • Economics/Business/Free Enterprise

Why the GMAS matters

The GMAS is important for all the stakeholders, i.e. students and the schools.

These tests determine if the student has understood the curriculum as per state standards, because they are pegged to Georgia’s new academic standards, which are guided by the Common Core, a national consensus of what each child should learn in each grade level. 

They are also used to determine whether students in certain grades are promoted or retained:

  • 3rd graders must pass the English subject test to be promoted to 4th grade.
  • 5th and 8th graders must pass the English and math portions to be promoted to the next grade.
  • For high school students, each EOC score counts as 20% of their final grade in that course.

The GMAS tests are also used to determine the state’s rating system for its public schools because they are part of the formula that produces the College and Career Ready Performance Index.

When is the GMAS taken?

Grades 3-8 take the EOGs annually in the spring, typically in April. 

Middle and high school students who are enrolled in a course that has an EOC will take the EOC when the course is completed, regardless of the grade level. 

Retest for the GMAS

Should students need it, a retest is available during the summer. Check with your school for the exact schedule.

Generally speaking, the following students can take a retest:

  • Students in grades 3, 5, and 8 who score Below Grade Level on the reading section of the ELA EOG test.
  • Students in grades 5 and 8 who score at the Beginning level on the Math EOG test (see more about scoring levels later in this article).
  • Students who earn a grade conversion score below 70 on a high school EOC test may retest during the next mid-month testing window, or during the summer if the first test was taken in the spring. 

How is GMAS taken?

The GMAS is taken online unless students cannot interact with a computer due to their disability and their Individualized Education Plan requires a different accommodation. The state’s education department mandated online tests for all of its standardized tests from the 2018-19 school year. 

Grading of the GMAS

Achievement Level

The achievement levels describe how well students have learned the knowledge and skills in the subject as per Georgia’s content standards, and give an indication of how ready a student is to move on to the next grade level. They also indicate how much academic support is needed to prepare the student for the next grade level or course and to be on track for college and career readiness. 

Georgia Milestones reports student achievement in four levels:

  • Beginning Learners: Proficiency in the course is not demonstrated. Substantial academic support needed.
  • Developing Learners: Partial proficiency in the course is demonstrated. Additional academic support needed. 
  • Proficient Learners: Proficiency in the course is demonstrated. The students are prepared for the next grade level or course and are on track for college and career readiness.
  • Distinguished Learners: Advanced proficiency in the course is demonstrated. The students are well prepared for the next grade level or course and are prepared for college and career readiness.

Lexile measures

A Lexile measure is an indication of reading level. It is a standard score that matches a student’s reading ability with difficulty of text material.

It can be interpreted as the level of book that a student can read with 75% comprehension. Experts have identified a 75% comprehension level as offering the reader a certain amount of comfort and yet still offering a challenge. 

The Lexile scale ranges between 200L and 1700L. However, some students may score a Lexile reading of below 200L for some reading material and may have a code of BR* for “beginning reader”.

Many books have a Lexile measure to identify material that is at an appropriate reading level for a student or to identify material that would provide a challenge to improve their reading skills.

National Percentile

The EOG assessments include a small number of questions in each content area that are used in assessments nationally. These items give a general snapshot of how a student’s answers compare with students nationally. The percentile number indicates that your child performed as well as or better than that percent of the national sample.

Here is a sample of an Individual Student Report for the GMAS, and a parent’s guide to the Individual Student Report.

The Georgia Alternate Assessment (GAA)

The Georgia Alternate Assessment (GAA) is a key component of the Georgia Milestones Assessment System. It is for students with significant cognitive disabilities, and is an alternate assessment based on alternate achievement standards, as determined by the students’ IEP team.

Under the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB) and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), states must ensure that all students, including students with significant cognitive disabilities, be taught a curriculum that represents sufficiently challenging academic standards. 

What’s in store for the 2020-21 school year

As things stand, the GMAS is most likely going to be conducted for the 2020-21 school year. Although the state of Georgia had moved for the suspension of the 2020-21 GMAS and CCRPI school and district rating, the official word from the U.S. Department of Education is that there is no plan to grant federal testing waivers for the 2020-21 school year.

This is the first school year since the COVID -19 situation, and we know that this is going to be a tough and unprecedented one for students, teachers, and parents. Nonetheless, we will have to prepare for things as per the decision of the U.S. Department of Education. Please follow the official Georgia Department of Education (GaDOE) site for the latest updates.

As parents, what we can do is commit to continue practice testing to ensure that our children are prepared. Given that schools will be hard pressed as it is to make sure that classroom instruction is adequately given, extra practice testing becomes even more important. It’s also worth noting that science has shown that practice testing is an essential part of learning and increases long-term retention of subject matter and concepts. Practice makes everything stick. 

Georgia Test Prep is an online practice testing tool to help your kids test themselves on what they learn in school. It’s designed by Georgia teachers and based on the Georgia school curriculum, so it’s super relevant to what your kids actually learn. Get access to thousands of questions for less than ten cents a day, and give your child a jump start on their success.

Georgia Parents’ Ultimate Guide to Prepare your Child for Georgia Milestones Testing

As parents, we all want our children to succeed in life. In their early years, a large part of that involves doing well at school, and for Georgia state students a major landmark in their school years are the Georgia Milestones Tests.

The question on all of our minds is, “What can I do to help my child ace the Georgia Milestones Tests?”

The most important thing to understand is that preparation doesn’t happen overnight. It is an ongoing process that spans the entire school year. The good news is that Georgia state teachers are doing a great job in keeping students up to date with the curriculum, and there are things that you as a parent can do to motivate your children, help reinforce learning, and prepare them for Milestones Tests.

In broad strokes, parents can help their kids with Georgia Milestones preparation in the following ways:

  1. Help with subjects/school work
  2. Help with mental preparation
  3. Taking enough practice tests

Now, we parents are not trained educators, and we don’t have unlimited time to devote to our kids’ schooling. Although there are things that you can do to inculcate learning at home, you will need to entrust the majority of the load of curriculum teaching to the teachers. But mental preparation and practice testing are things that we can do that are high-impact and not high-load.

To that end, based on our research and experiences as parents who want their kids to thrive in their studies, we at Georgia Test Prep have put together this Georgia Parents’ Ultimate Guide to prepare your child for Georgia Milestones Testing.

Let’s get into it!

Treat your kids as stakeholders in their own studies

Your kids shouldn’t see going to school, learning, and taking tests as something that is forced upon them. Of course, it’s natural for kids to feel like this, and we’ve gone through it ourselves. But it’s our job to continuously create a positive mindset around their “learning career,” because learning doesn’t stop when school ends. Since assessments are an important part of school life, children must see them as a valuable part of their own growth journey. Building such an attitude starts with the way you talk about it with your children.

Encourage your kids to set goals

Setting a goal and writing it down is widely known as one of the best ways to motivate ourselves to do something. The same applies to our kids. Ask them to set a goal that is relevant to them. Perhaps they want to focus on being able to complete the test in time or to aim for getting a certain percentage of questions correct. Setting a goal encourages them to compare their actual results with intended results, and to assess what is working or not working in their own efforts. Children who set study goals progress more reliably than those who do not.

Encourage self-reflection

School moves a fast pace, and there’s a lot on a child’s mind other than their studies (let’s be frank). Recognize this, encourage your kids to recognize this, and adapt. One of the most effective things they can do is take some time for quiet self-reflection to contemplate and internalize what they know and what they still need to work on. This is why setting goals is very important rather than having a vague objective of “getting good marks”.

Build test-taking stamina

Studying for tests and the actual act of taking tests requires stamina, a fact that many of us ignore. Stamina is something we associate more readily with gym class. But when testing season comes around, reading, thinking, rereading, and answering questions for several hours, several days in a row is very taxing and requires a great deal of mental stamina to maintain focus.

One of the best test-prep tips you will hear is: Help your kids build their test-taking stamina, so they will be better prepared to answer GSA exams when the time comes. You can start small if need be, with 10-15 minute bursts of reading time or test-taking, and work up from there. Create a regimen along with your child that suits them best. This is gym class for the mind.

Read a little every night

Encourage your child to sit for 20 minutes reading silently to him or herself to build stamina. This shouldn’t be a problem if your child already has a reading habit, but if not, it’s a good opportunity to give them a bit of that. If they have focus issues, you can mix up the way reading is done by asking them to read to you, or listen while you read to them, or read together.

Praise the process

Praise is very important as a positive reinforcement, but praise wisely! In another article we covered in-depth the importance of creating a growth mindset in your kids. To summarize here, praise the process they took to solving problems and completing tests. This puts focus on the approach rather than sheer efforts or results, and instills in them a habit of refining their process to get better and better which will ultimately improve results.

Create a quiet study area 

Designate one area as their test-focus zone. Free it of distractions (as far as possible) during their practice test time. You can keep a chart to track their total study time or testing progress, anything that will help motivate them and keep their eye on the prize.

Review grades/speak with teacher

Parents no doubt keep a track of their kids’ grades with progress reports and report cards. If you notice any anomalies in their grades, arrange to meet with your child’s teacher. See how you can work together to set up a plan to make sure your child is successful during the school year. You can ask them for Georgia Milestones resources or if they have any test-taking tips that have worked with students.

Plenty of rest and a nutritious, hot breakfast

Maintain a routine bed-time. Kids need to get a solid 8-9 hours of sleep. Routines are especially important during testing time, as there will be a lot of testing for several days back to back. If your child isn’t already in routine, it becomes difficult to adjust at short notice. Your child will benefit on test day with plenty of rest, so make it a habit.

Let’s not forget, a good, healthy breakfast (low in sugar) in the morning is very important! And while there’s nothing wrong with a bowl of cereal and cold milk, try and make something hot for them to warm up the stomach and the mind.

Practice typing on the computer

With testing moving towards being online-based, it’s a good idea to make sure your child is familiar with typing. In all likelihood, today’s kids are more computer-friendly than we are, but if they need help then there are online resources to help them get better such as typingclub.com and typehop.com.

Practice testing

This is one of the most important things you can implement at home. And Georgia Test Prep has a comprehensive bank of GSA questions designed by Georgia parents and teachers to help you do this. 

Practice testing has been proven to be one of the most effective learning techniques. It has been found that taking practice tests on studied material promotes greater subsequent learning and retention on a final test as compared to relying on more common study strategies. This is called the “testing effect”. 

In other words, science supports what we know intuitively: in order for kids to retain what they’ve learned, they need to practice, practice, practice!

For maximum effect, do online practice for at least 30 minutes every week, and practice in short bursts over several sessions rather than long sessions. Read more about the benefits and science of practice testing in our other post.

The right online tools can be a big help in designing a rigorous and effective test preparation program for your child without taking up all of your time. Georgia Test Prep has your back with a tool that is created especially for Georgia state students. Check out our tool for online math practice and ELA questions.

Final thoughts

Preparing your child for the Georgia Milestones Tests is a multifaceted effort that takes time. Essentially, to prepare for any test requires two parallel efforts:

  1. Preparing for the subject of a test, that is, getting strong with the curriculum taught in school.
  2. Preparing for taking the actual test, that is, familiarizing your child with the test format, the different kinds of questions, and what the test actually feels like.

It sounds like a lot of work, but now that you know all the bases you won’t have to spread yourself thin. Concentrate your activities where your child needs the most help, keep an eye on their progress, and intervene with their teacher as and when necessary.

The most important thing to remember, before all else, is to make learning a positive experience. If kids are constantly living in fear of tests then it will hinder their learning process and knowledge absorption ability.

Check out the other articles on our blog for Georgia State Assessment preparation tips, tricks, and best practices.