Our View: GMAS scores not acceptable

Published 3:52 pm Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Last week Georgia Milestone Assessment System scores were released for the entire state of Georgia.

Students in Troup County already received their individual scores, but scores by system were made public last week.

Troup County remained below state average, almost across the board, in the tested areas — English Language Arts, reading, science, math and social studies.

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Some of the scores improved, including the reading level of students in third and fifth grade, but many others fell, such as science in the eighth grade.

The scores aren’t acceptable, but that isn’t anything the leaders of the Troup County School System don’t already know. There’s also no magic fix.

TCSS isn’t going to snap its fingers, drastically improve the scores in one fell swoop and have all students reading at or above grade level.

Unfortunately, that’s not how education — or frankly, anything — works.

The school system has put a huge focus on literacy levels, especially at lower grade levels, and there were some improvements there. Nearly 65 percent of third graders were at or above grade level, an increase of nearly five percentage points from 2018.

In fifth grade, the increase was even more profound as 70 percent of readers are at grade level or above, a 7 percent increase from 2018.

Those are improvements worth celebrating, and they set those students up for success in the future. Reading is the building block for all learning.

TCSS also held a summer camp, where students took the retest in certain subjects. According to data from the school system, those retests showed improvement, and none of them are currently factored into the already-released GMAS scores.

Unfortunately, other scores did not improve the same way.

Fourth grade reading levels essentially stayed the same, and most other reading scores from sixth grade through eighth grade declined. The same can be said for science, social studies, math and English Language Arts.

It’s true that there are many factors for these scores.

However, other school systems deal with mitigating factors as well and find a way to overcome them. At the end of the day, statistics show that the average student in Troup County isn’t as informed as the average Georgia student, in most subjects based only on the GMAS test.

That’s simplifying it too much, but essentially that’s what the GMAS scores are telling us.

With that said, Dr. Brian Shumate has been on the job long enough to grab a cup of coffee and take part in one school board meeting. It’s clear that Shumate has big plans for the school system, and he needs support from parents, teacher and the board as he puts those plans into action.

He’s also talked about instructional coherence, or ensuring that a subject is taught the same way across the school system. Therefore, a fourth grade math student at Berta Weatherbee would have the same understanding as a fourth grade math student from Hollis Hand.

That should be a big focus, especially considering how scores fluctuated from one school to the next.

Shumate also plans to compare the numbers to equal sized districts and to determine how Troup did against other schools in this region of the state.

The school system has already made some changes.

For instance, they countered the falling middle school science scores by reversing a decision that resulted in two nine week semesters for science instead of three. Now, each student will have three weeks of science with an additional nine weeks available if needed.

Everyone wants to see higher GMAS scores, and in correlation, higher Career and College Readiness Performance Index scores. There’s no reason that Troup cannot get there.

For now, the key is supporting our new superintendent, the board, teachers and students as they work to get there.