Can Georgia parents challenge a Milestones test score?

Several parents have asked whether there's any way to contest a score on a Georgia Milestones exam -- a test created and graded by the state. Neither teachers nor parents can see how a student answered the questions. They only see the score.

This issue is coming up because Georgia parents are now getting their high school student's report card and discovering a Milestones test caused a grade to drop from an A to a B or a B to a C -- which can be a critical slip in the pursuit of a HOPE Scholarship or admission to a top college.

State end-of-course tests count for 20 percent of a high school student's grade in the 10 courses for which there are Georgia Milestones. Since last year was a practice run, Milestones scores did not influence final grades; this year they do.

Some parents are not happy. A metro Atlanta mother said Milestones testing was a mess at her daughters' high school. She doesn't understand why the scores still count against her children since problems in elementary and middle school testing prompted the state to waive the use of Milestones in retention decisions.

"Why was it OK not to count the scores in elementary and middle school but to count the test as 20 percent of high school grades? The teachers don't even know what is on the test and, therefore, it is really a mystery," said the mom.

I covered the legislative discussion around the 20 percent rule and understand the logic of the General Assembly; it wanted high school students to take these tests seriously.  I never heard much discussion of how parents could challenge the test results.

The state Department of Education says districts can request a rescoring of a test but there is a cost if the score is unchanged as a result.  (The form can be found on page 168 of this GaDOE manual.)

How does a parent initiate the process if they want a score reviewed? And what is the cost?

The cost depends on various factors, said DOE spokesman Matt Cardoza. "There's not just a specific amount we can give you. The details are best taken care of at the school level. The bottom line on that, as with many things, is that they need to contact their child's school. The school will walk them through that process."

First, here is a note from a parent:

I would love to see an article that explains what, if any, process is available for a student to contest or dispute a Milestones test result?

As the parent of a high school student where that 20 percent can make or break a grade (or HOPE or Zell Scholarships), I am very interested in learning what the Georgia Department of Education has to say about this. Human beings are grading a portion of these tests that are not scored by a computer and we all know that everyone makes mistakes.

Every school year, my child has to monitor grades online and there are usually mistakes made that a teacher is happy to correct when my child shows the teacher the previously graded work that was incorrectly entered. Mistakes will inevitably be made with the Milestones testing as well. Particularly when for-profit companies are hiring temporary employees to grade and give out bonuses for faster work.

With a single test that accounts for 20 percent of a grade it is inconceivable to me that there would not be a process for disputing it. If there is no process available, then it simply should not count for that great a percentage of a student's grade.

Thanks for any light you can shed on this issue

And here is the DOE response: 

Yes – there is a process for districts to requests rescores – has been for many years.  Districts are aware of the process and can communicate to parents.

There is a potential charge – if the rescore yields the same scores, then there is a charge.  If the rescore yields a different score, there is no charge.

It’s important to understand that because of the stakes involved with the EOC, we have two independent reads.  In other words, two readers score each student’s response independently (they do not know if the item has been previously scored or what score was given; thus it is called a blind read).  If there is a discrepancy, it is adjudicated with a third read by the team leader for the item.  This process helps us monitor scoring and identify scorers who may drift from applying the rubric accurately.  If such an identification is made, the student responses scored by the reader are reset and rescored.  The reader is removed from scoring.

Readers are not given bonuses for "faster reading."  {In an earlier blog, a parent who applied for a job scoring tests said she was told in the interview that workers would be evaluated based on quantity.} We have confirmed this is not true.  They do earn a small bonus for attendance each day during scoring, but this is not tied to reading rates.