Students at Sweetwater Middle School use computer labs for daily instruction. The Milestones tests were given on such school computers this year. Courtesy of Gwinnett County Public Schools.

Georgia students score better on state Milestones tests

Georgia students did better on the state-standardized tests this last school year, with a larger percentage scoring on track to graduate “college and career ready.”

Scores rose or held steady on 25 of the 26 Milestones — the best outcome in the five years that the test has been given, according to the Georgia Department of Education, which released the results Friday.

The literacy gains were promising: the percentage of students with solid reading scores rose or held steady, especially among the youngest students tested. The percentage of third graders who scored “proficient” or better on their English Language Arts test rose by five points as did the percentage with “Lexile” scores that showed they are reading on or above grade level.

>> RELATED | Milestones scores tied to poverty

>> SEARCH | Get more information about every Georgia school in the AJC’s Ultimate School Guide

Reading well by third grade is essential for academic success, since every subject from then on requires the skill. And over half the students in each tested grade were reading on grade level.

Gov. Brian Kemp called the results “impressive.” State School Superintendent Richard Woods, like Kemp, credited hard work. He also attributed the gains to a focus on educating “the whole child” with well-rounded schooling. 

But the Department of Education news release that quoted them didn’t mention this: though a larger percentage of students are competent in reading, more than half of the third graders still cannot communicate well. Fifty eight percent scored below proficient in English Language Arts, which includes skills in reading, writing and speaking.

An Atlanta Journal-Constitution analysis of school data shows a strong relationship between the scores and the proportion of students from economically disadvantaged homes.


  • The number of tests with a higher proportion of students this year scoring at least proficient:

14 of 16 in third grade through middle school

7 of 10 in high school

  • “Proficient” means a score in the second best tier. Proficient students are prepared for the next grade and are “on track for college and career readiness.” (The four tiers: distinguished, proficient, developing and beginning.)
  • The percentage of the 129,231 third graders scoring in each range on one key test — English Language Arts:

14% - distinguished

28% - proficient

29% - developing

29% - beginning

  • The proportion of those students reading at or above third grade level: 73%
  • The two metro Atlanta schools book-ending each end of the spectrum on the third grade English Language Arts test:

Austin Elementary in DeKalb County, 88.2% proficient or distinguished

Fain Elementary in Atlanta, 3% proficient or distinguished (the school is merging with another to create a new school this fall)

80% of elementary and middle schools

76% of high schools

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