Some of the data files, posted Wednesday, are old. They include Milestones test scores released in the summer and the graduation rates posted in October.
But there was some new data, too, such as English learners’ performance on a language test and enrollment rates in Advanced Placement and other “accelerated” courses.
Ken Zeff, a former superintendent for Fulton County Schools, said every bit of data is helpful.
For instance, 1 in 3 metro Atlanta students in third grade didn’t take the Milestones test for reading, and the average pass rate fell several percentage points, he noted.
“We don’t want to over-interpret that data point, but we should talk about it. We should look at it and just recognize that we’ve had a dip in learning,” said Zeff, the metro Atlanta leader of Learn4Life, a national nonprofit that supports public schools.
The files were posted on a page in the agency’s website Wednesday rather than on the main page. Instead of the normal press release, there was a short message with the data noting that the U.S. Department of Education had granted Georgia an accountability waiver last spring.
“Thus, there are no CCRPI summary scores for the state, school districts, or schools,” the note says.
The cumulative Milestones results are flawed because of low participation rates. At Harper Elementary School in Clayton County, for instance, just 1% of students took a Milestones test in math. At Roswell High School in Fulton County, the participation rate in English testing was 1%.
Some schools had high participation, such as Centennial Arts Academy in Gainesville, where just a quarter of a percent of students skipped their math test. But at many schools, the rate was so low that the state simply reported the percentage as “too few students.”
The low participation came as no surprise, since many students were still attending remotely last spring. Due to the high-stakes nature of the Milestones — the results are normally used to judge teachers and administrators — the tests are only given in person.
Georgia’s overall Milestones scores fell from the 2018-19 school year, the last time the tests were given. (The federal government waived the tests in the spring of 2020.) The percentage of failing students rose by 2 to 9 points, varying by grade level and subject.
Zeff said he understands why the state education agency is downplaying these report card measures. Many students learned less than they might have due to the pandemic, and the impulse to blame teachers and school leaders is a strong one, he said.
“Obviously, nobody should lose their job over that,” he said. But the data can still point to schools that did better or worse: High achievers can be studied, their lessons applied to those who struggled. Also, he said, the data can help steer Georgia’s billions of dollars in federal coronavirus relief aid to the schools that need it most.