Society & Culture

Tools help teachers, students brush up for new statewide tests

Athens, Ga. – New tools developed by researchers at the University of Georgia’s Center for Assessment may help teachers prepare students for a new statewide assessment kicking off this spring.

After more than a decade of focusing on the statewide Criterion-Referenced Competency Test and End of Course Test, Georgia teachers are shifting gears to the Georgia Milestones Assessment System, a test that gauges how they analyze documents and construct a response, rather than bubble in the correct answer on a test form.

To help with this new test, the Georgia Center for Assessment in the College of Education has created a literacy assessment for first- through 12th-graders that can help teachers align instruction with the new test. Mathematics assessments are in development.

Practice tests and other downloadable materials are available by contacting the Georgia Center for Assessment at 1-888-392-8977 or by visiting The toolkit aims to help teachers learn the best ways to teach this new material, become familiar with the new test format and assess their students to find strengths and weaknesses.

What makes the Georgia Milestones unique, said Jeff Barker, associate director of the Georgia Center for Assessment, is that it includes “constructed response” questions, or questions that require reading a passage and analyzing it for information, in addition to multiple-choice questions.

For example, rather than simply asking a student to identify a character in a story, students may now be asked to use context clues to analyze a document. “But we were also careful not to say it was a mirror of the Milestones assessments,” Barker said. “Because the assessments are focused on supporting and enhancing instruction. If you focus your instruction, students will generally do well on any assessment.”

This shift came about as the Common Core Georgia Performance Standards have come into play across the state. The writing focus, for example, has moved from persuasive or narrative writing toward analyzing informational, historical or technical documents.

“I can tell you, we’re not prepared for that shift. We haven’t been teaching the new language expectations found in the Georgia Performance Standards,” Barker said.

The Georgia Center for Assessment provides test design, development, scoring and analysis as part of its educational assessment tools used across the state and the country.

Barker said the GCA staff also provides professional learning for schools to help with instruction in preparation for the Georgia Milestones.

“In the past, we’ve had too many practice tests; some schools would shut down a whole month and prepare for the test,” Barker said. “Now, with these new tests, it is difficult to do that. You need to be instructing from day one. … We will never change achievement until we focus on instruction, not practicing for a test.”

Note to editors: Faculty and researchers at the Georgia Center for Assessment are available to comment on test design, the psychology of taking a test and the changes taking place in statewide assessments, as reflected by the new Common Core Georgia Performance Standards. For media inquiries, contact the GCA at 706-542-5231.