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Securing Atlanta's Future Thought Leadership

Three steps to appropriately use Georgia Milestones

by Ken Zeff, Ed.D 

Georgia Milestones data for the 2021-22 school year was released last week, and as expected, the data revealed that educational recovery is underway, but at this pace, it will take years to return to pre-pandemic achievement levels. And lest we forget, pre-pandemic levels still served far too few students. While Milestones only tell part of the story of the student experience, these assessments do provide valuable insight into performance and, when used appropriately, can be an accelerant to learning recovery. To unleash insight from Milestones data, there are three key tips we at L4L have found to be helpful: 

  1. Use Milestones data to find what is working, not what is broken – Milestones data offers a unique opportunity to understand the relative progress of every school in the state. By looking at schools with similar demographics and challenges, it is possible to see which schools are delivering superior results, especially for historically underserved students. The data won’t necessarily tell you why, but it can tell you where to look. At L4L, we study these uncommonly successful schools and look for strategies and interventions to scale. There is a lot that is working for kids in metro Atlanta. Milestones data helps us find it. 
  2. Beware of the averages – Milestones data is not disaggregated by subgroups right now. A certain school may be “high-performing,” but it is unclear if all groups of students are growing. We know from national data that kids of color have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. We see these unequal proficiency levels in 2021-2022 NWEA data, which administers criterion-referenced assessments nationally.

Source: NWEA Research, July, 2022.”Student Achievement 2021-22”.

Before jumping to any conclusions about school-level data, it is important to look past the averages and understand if all students are being equitably served. 

  1. If the data tell an incomplete story, push for more data, not less – it is a challenging moment in teaching and learning, and time with students is at a premium. We need to strike a delicate balance between time spent on instruction and time spent on assessment. While useful data can illuminate the path forward, we should not spend time on assessments that do not lead to a more equitable recovery. While Milestones data does not drive instruction at the classroom level, it does play a critical role in overall educational decision-making at a school and district level, and in resource allocation to schools that need it most. Better data, not less, will greatly aid this recovery. 

Milestones data from 2021-22 shows that progress is possible. Thoughtful and responsible use of data honors the work of educators throughout our region who are working tirelessly on behalf of kids. It is incumbent upon us all to ensure we use the information to support their work. 

Each of L4L’s Change Action Networks will be diving into this data to identify ‘Bright Spots’ in metro Atlanta. Feel free to sign-up for invites to the Early Grade Literacy Network, Middle School Math Network or Postsecondary Success Network to join these conversations.


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