When Bulloch County public school students set foot in their classrooms on Aug. 1, they will notice some changes.
In the 2014-15 school year, Georgia will start a new assessment called the Georgia Milestones Assessment System, which is more closely aligned to the Common Core Georgia Performance Standards.
Information on the test is still limited at this point, but the assessment will replace the Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests and End-of-Course Tests, which were administered for the last time in the 2013-14 school year.
However, the Milestone tests, like the CRCTs before them, make grades three, five and eight “gateway years,” said Hayley Greene, the Bulloch County school system’s public relations and marketing specialist.
“The test is supposed to be open-response kind of questions,” said Todd Williford, the principal of Mattie Lively Elementary School. “(We are) trying to work with kids on learning and … typing and answering questions that type of way compared to bubbling answers in the past.”
With the new testing system, the state has a five-year plan concerning the number of students who will take the test online.
For the first year, the state’s expectation is that 30 percent of the students will take the new test online, with the balance taking a paper-and-pencil version of the test. By the end of year five, the state wants as many students as possible to take the tests online.
The new assessment can also be administered on laptops and tablets, Greene said.
For the past two years, teachers in the school system have been training by both grade and subject on implementing the Common Core Georgia Performance Standards into their classrooms.
That training has focused on new methods of teaching math methods and English/language arts.
That has come “along with the standards that have what we call frameworks, which are basically simple lesson plans,” Greene said. “So they have been looking at those frameworks saying what works, what doesn’t work, what do we want to use, what we don’t want to use and coming up with what they will do in the classroom by grade level, by subject level.”
Math before the Common Core focused on obtaining a basic skill to solve a problem in a specific way. The standards now require students to learn that there are different ways to solve a problem.
“We also have done training on what we call PLCs. These are professional learning communities,” Greene said. “And this is one way we’re putting into place as a district to support teachers that they will form these PLCs that are basically collaborative groups either by subject or by grade level. And we are building in time for them to meet. This is where they can meet collaborate plan be innovative so these are all support mechanisms that we are putting into place that will help them teach these standards.”
Changes in math also include students focusing on speed and accuracy, real-world application, quick problem-solving and “know it/do it,” according to the state’s Common Core website.
The students will have “tools in their tool belt” that allow them to solve a problem even when they are not presented with a specific formula, Greene said.
Some of the changes in English/language arts include reading equal amounts of nonfiction and fiction, using literature as material to learn more about the world and carefully reading more complex material, according to the state’s Common Core website.
Bulloch County also has new positions dedicated to the new content. There are now content specialists for English/language arts, math, social studies and science. These specialists act as a valuable resource and “another level of support” for the teachers, Greene said.
Georgia adopted the Common Core State Standards in 2010, but this year will see more changes with the new test and teachers continuing to grow in their use of the Common Core.
Williford, the Mattie Lively principal, said he can see the effect of the new standards and testing at his school.
His school is preparing and working with new information about the testing and procedures, he said.
“The teachers are now feeling more comfortable. They see how the students can benefit from this deeper learning,” Williford said. “I think they are now just feeling more comfortable in their own selves and finding their own personalities in their teaching and applying that through the CCGPS so that the students become a better learner.”