Georgia Milestones scores released Friday by the Georgia Department of Education show gains among Cherokee County School District students in many of the annual end-of-grade and end-of-course exams.

Every spring, schools administer state end-of-grade tests to students in grades 3-8 in English and math, with science and social studies tests in fifth and eighth grade. High school students, and middle school students in high school courses, take end-of-course tests in select subjects including math and science courses, U.S. history and economics.

CCSD students who took the exams in the spring showed gains or stayed about the same in the percentage of students in the two highest levels of achievement, Proficient and Distinguished, which are on grade level and ready for the next grade or course, in 19 out of 24 EOC and EOG tests, with reduced percentages in five of the tests.

The strongest gains from last year’s results were in sixth grade English Language Arts, which increased by 7 points to 58%. In Ninth Grade Literature, as well as third grade math, percentages of Proficient and Distinguished scorers increased by more than 6 points, to 71% and 69% respectively.

Among the important gains for the district were those in in early literacy and math — for elementary school students, the percentage of students earning Proficient to Distinguished scores on these tests increased from 1 to 7 points across all grade levels.

The Biology end-of-course exam saw 60% students scoring in the Proficient and above range, 7 percentage points fewer than last year. The proportion of students at Developing and above was 82%.

CCSD reported overall higher Milestones exam scores than state averages for the fifth year in a row.

For third grade, the percentage of CCSD students achieving Proficient to Distinguished was: 69% for math (as compared to 52% for Georgia) and 50% for English Language Arts (42% Georgia).

For fifth grade, the percentage of CCSD students achieving Proficient to Distinguished scores was: 57% for math (41% Georgia), 58% for English Language Arts (45% Georgia), 51% for science (43% Georgia) and 42% for social studies (31% Georgia).

For eighth grade, the percentage of CCSD students achieving Proficient to Distinguished scores was: 62% for English Language Arts (47% Georgia), 42% for math (35% Georgia), 36% for science (32% Georgia) and 52% for social studies (41% Georgia).

For high school credit courses, the percentage of CCSD students achieving Proficient to Distinguished scores was: 71% for 9th Grade Literature and Composition (61% Georgia), 59% for American Literature and Composition (47% for Georgia), 51% for Algebra I (41% Georgia), 57% for Geometry (41% Georgia), 60% for Biology (49% Georgia), 59% for Physical Science (47% Georgia), 64% for U.S. History (48% Georgia) and 66% for Economics (48% Georgia).

“We’re proud of the hard work by students and teachers that led to these positive results. We value accountability as an important tool for continuous improvement in teaching and learning, but tests are not what drive us,” Superintendent Brian Hightower said in a statement. “Our children are not data points. We want them to master core academics, but we also want them to explore the arts, learn job and life skills, have fun, and become the best people they can be.”

The Milestones also reports the percentages of students of third through eighth graders reading on grade level, based on those earning at or above a certain Lexile score. In CCSD, those numbers grew across all grade levels, and were also higher than state averages. Results show that 83% of CCSD eighth-graders are reading at or above grade level (compared to 74% statewide); as are 82% of CCSD fifth-graders (73% statewide); and 79% of CCSD third-graders (73% statewide). At the high school level, 87% of CCSD ninth-graders demonstrated reading skills at or above grade level (83% statewide), as did 84% of students taking American Literature, typically 11th-graders (75% statewide).

GaDOE reported strong gains statewide, with scores increasing or holding steady on 25 of 26 assessments – the strongest overall gains recorded in the Milestones’ five-year history. The percentage of students reading on grade level or above increased or held steady in every tested grade and both English language arts high school courses.

Students began taking Georgia Milestones assessments in 2014-15. The testing system is one comprehensive program across grades 3-12, which includes open-ended and technology-enhanced questions to better gauge students’ content mastery. This year, the assessment was administered 100% online for the first time (with the exception of students who require a paper/pencil test as an accommodation.)

For the full results and more information, visit bit.ly/2JUc1Ff.

Note: Cherokee Charter Academy is not a part of CCSD.

Shannon is a reporter covering education, city governments, crime, features, religion and other local news. She is a graduate of Young Harris College and currently lives in unincorporated Woodstock.

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