Schools across the state saw lower standardized test scores since before the coronavirus pandemic, and Cherokee County’s public schools were no exception.

The annual Georgia Milestones are designed to measure students’ mastery of state standards. Elementary and middle school students take the tests near the end of the school year. High school students and middle schoolers in high school-level classes take end-of-course assessments in key subjects.

Due to pandemic-related changes in students’ learning environments and lower participation rates, the Georgia Department of Education says school districts, media, parents and community members should “use caution in making year-to-year comparisons.” In general, year-to-year comparisons should not be made using school- and district-level data, the state’s news release said.

This year, the state reduced the weight of the Milestones to 0.01% of students’ final grades. As a result, many students elected not to take the standardized tests and participation varied.

Cherokee County School DistrictGeorgia Milestones results released this week showed Cherokee County School District student test scores dropped in all but two of 20 assessments compared to 2019, the last time the exams were administered.

Even with lower scores, CCSD surpassed state averages for every test. 2021 marks the sixth year CCSD has, on average, outperformed the state on Milestones tests, according to the district.

The district’s largest drop in average test scores was in the high school end-of-course U.S. History exam, which saw a drop of 25 points. This test had a reported 78% participation rate.

CCSD gained 27 points on its average in the eighth grade physical science end-of-course exam, and saw a 4-point bump in its average in eighth grade math. State officials note in previous years the physical science test was administered to middle and high schoolers taking physical science.

“These scores do not define us nor how hard our students, teachers and support staff worked last year to ensure students received the best education possible during the pandemic,” Superintendent Dr. Brian Hightower said in a statement. “These scores do support our expectation that we would need to focus this school year on bridging learning opportunity losses due to the pandemic through investing further in instruction. I’m deeply grateful for our School Board’s support in hiring 125 teachers for this school year, above and beyond anticipated enrollment growth, to address this need, so we could take steps like lowering class sizes, adding more remediation services and making other changes focused on learning growth.”

CCSD’s participation was higher than most in the state, ranging from 76-94%, with the highest rates among elementary school students.

Lyn Turnell, CCSD’s director of student assessment, told school board members Thursday the district was expecting lower scores in some areas. She noted that while CCSD’s testing participation was higher than state averages, it was still lower than a normal year, even among in-person students.

“Of course, we all know COVID had a huge impact last year on teaching, instruction and learning. Even though we opened face-to-face at the beginning of August last year, we do know each student was different in terms of the experience they had for learning,” she said. “We knew that COVID would have an impact on these results.”

This year, the Georgia Department of Education will not issue a College and Career Ready Performance Index report, the state’s tool to measure schools’ performance which in part is based on test scores, Turnell said.

“I know testing tends to sometimes get a bad reputation, but my hope is that with COVID and some of the relief we have from CCRPI and accountability measures, we can get back to really using our test data the way we should be,” she said, “which is to inform our instructional practices, to identify areas for individual students who might need additional support, or be ready for remediation.”

Cherokee Charter AcademyCherokee Charter Academy saw student test score averages decreasing in 12 out of 17 available assessments.

The charter school outscored state averages on seven out of 17 assessments for which data was available. In seventh grade math, the school’s average score was on par with the state’s.

CCA’s largest drop in average test scores from 2019 was in the Algebra I end-of-course test, which saw a decrease by 29 points from the 2019 average. A reported 84% of the school’s students taking Algebra I took the exam.

Cherokee Charter saw its largest gains in the eighth grade physical science end-of-course test, in which the average increased by 37 points. The school reported 89% of enrolled students in the class took the exam.

Cherokee Charter’s participation was as low as 55% for high school end-of-course U.S. History exams, and the highest participation rate was 79% for third grade English language arts and math tests.

The school serves students in grades K-8 from Cherokee, Cobb, Pickens, and Bartow counties, and is not part of CCSD.

GeorgiaStatewide, test scores decreased by an average of six points in grades 3-8, and a range of 4 to 15 points in high school, according to the state education department. Georgia’s overall participation rates ranged from 55% in high school to 79% in third grade.

“Georgia Milestones was designed to measure instruction during a typical school year, and 2020-2021 was anything but,” State School Superintendent Richard Woods said. “Given the impacts of the pandemic on all students, we expected some decreases this year. Georgia educators and students have worked extremely hard and these results do not reflect or diminish their efforts. With educators already working to get students back on track and the vast majority of school districts offering five days a week of in-person instruction this year, I’m confident students will receive the support they need to make up any lost ground.

For state, school system and local Milestones data, visit


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